2017 Alumni Achievement Award: Jim Kirkpatrick (Ph.D. '72)

Posted on 11.14.2017
Photo: Presentation of the plaque
On November 3rd, 2017, Prof. R. James Kirkpatrick (PhD ’72), Dean of the College of Natural Sciences at Michigan State University, was presented with the department’s Alumni Achievement Award. Jim is well known to many current and former members of the department, having served UIUC for nearly 30 years as a faculty member, department head (9 years), R.E. Grim Professor, and executive associate dean (10 years) before taking his current deanship at MSU in 2007. He has been highly respected as an administrator, and was an early proponent of the formation of the School of Earth, Society and Environment.

Jim’s research accomplishments are remarkable, given the constant burden of administrative duties during most of his career. After receiving the award from Department Head Tom Johnson on November 3rd, he presented a lecture, “NMR Spectroscopy and Computational Molecular Modeling of Mineral Surfaces and Interlayer Galleries: Structure, Dynamics and Energetics.” Jim’s research career began in igneous petrology, and he soon developed a very fruitful collaboration with Prof. Eric Oldfield in the Chemistry Department, applying rapidly developing Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) methods to explore the structure of silicate liquids quenched to glass. The NMR work eventually expanded to studies probing the ways that ions in water interact with minerals surfaces and the interlayer spaces of clay minerals. This work was then complemented by computer modeling to yield important new insights into the dynamics of the ions. Jim is an author on over 250 peer-reviewed publications.