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LCGC's Editorial Director, Laura Bush, presented Dwight R. Stoll, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Gustavus Adolphus College, with the 2011 LCGC Emerging Leader award at Pittcon this year. Afterward, she invited him to talk about his career and work.
LCGC’s Editorial Director, Laura Bush, presented Dwight R. Stoll, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Gustavus Adolphus College, with the 2011 LCGC Emerging Leader award at Pittcon this year. Afterward, she invited him to talk about his career and work.
What first got you interested in separations science?
Stoll: Actually, as an undergraduate I had a quantitative chemistry course and we didn’t do a chromatography experiment per se but we had to write a paper and that was what I chose. I have to admit, I was pretty confused about things at that time. Later as an undergraduate, I took a 1 h per week course that was called “Chromatography” which is pretty unusual for an undergraduate course. That was pretty interesting and I think it ultimately got me my first job working for a chromatography company, Zirchrom Separations, where we manufactured zirconia-based phases for HPLC. It was a small company and I got to learn a lot and really fell in love with separations and the rest is history, as they say. That was really the launching point for me. It was at that time too that I got to know Professor Carr who I then went on to do graduate work with. He’s a very good friend now and we continue to work together. He’s had an enormously positive impact on my life.
What was the most important thing you learned in graduate school?
Stoll: It’s funny you ask that question because my dissertation defense committee asked me the exact same question at the end of my defense. I think that the answer then is the same as it is now, and that is the adage that an hour spent in the library is worth at least a month in the laboratory. I’ve learned that along the way, but I don’t necessarily practice it very well. It’s one of things I really work with my students on; I encourage them to be real students of the literature.
Why did you choose to go into academia rather than industry?
Stoll: That’s a good question. I was fortunate in that I had the perspective of being able to compare the industry experience to the academic experience when I was in graduate school. I think there are really two big things. The first is that in academia we have the opportunity to be creative. Actually, just yesterday I heard Todd Maloney from Eli Lilly saying that there are lots of things he’s really interested in working on in pharma, but they just don’t have the time. I think that’s really big. I really enjoy that freedom and the opportunity to pursue things that are scientifically interesting, whether or not they are immediately relevant in terms of making money. And the other thing is the sense of community we have at Gustavus in particular. It’s a relatively small campus with very close colleagues and very bright students. I get to work with really bright, nice people every day and that’s really important to me.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.