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UM Chemistry Professor Named 2022 Rising Star

By Lydia Lagarde

University of Mississippi

The Women Chemists Committee of the American Chemical Society has named University of Mississippi professor Davita Watkins as a recipient of its 2022 Rising Star Award, which recognizes ‘exceptional early to midcareer women chemists across all areas of chemistry on a national level.’ Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Davita Watkins, an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Mississippi, has been awarded a 2022 Rising Star Award by the American Chemical Society’s Women Chemists Committee.

This award “recognizes exceptional early to midcareer women chemists across all areas of chemistry on a national level … to help promote the retention of women in science,” the society’s guidelines state.

Watkins is among nine women scientists honored with the award this year. She said she was “overwhelmed with gratitude” when a committee representative called to congratulate her on the honor.

“I have known about ACS since high school and began participating in the organization in graduate school,” Watkins said. “In my independent career, I began to be more active and have been voted onto several executive committees.”

Honorees received stipends to attend an award symposium and to show their work at the annual spring meeting of the American Chemical Society in March.

“It is great to see Dr. Watkins receive national recognition for something we’ve known locally in the department for quite some time,” said Greg Tschumper, chair and professor of chemistry and biochemistry. “She’s been on a stellar trajectory as an independent scholar ever since she joined the University of Mississippi as an assistant professor.”

Watkins received a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Vanderbilt University in 2006 and earned her doctorate in chemistry from the University of Memphis in 2012. She joined the Ole Miss faculty as an assistant professor in 2014 and was promoted to associate professor in 2020. 

Her research interests include organic and materials chemistry, supramolecular chemistry, organic electronics, noncovalent interactions, semiconductors, biomaterials, smart materials and conjugated nanostructures. 

The Watkins Research Laboratory develops novel functional materials with tunable properties through molecular self-assembly. Watkins and the researchers design, synthesize and study organic molecules that possess unique structural and functional properties.

“Knowing that my role models in the field as well as my peers acknowledge the work I do is humbling and encouraging,” Watkins said. “Additionally knowing that UM values these efforts – particularly recognizing that representation matters – is utmost rewarding. 

“I am grateful to my university, colleagues and department for support my work and for ACS’s recognition.”

To learn more about Watkins and her work, visit https://chemistry.olemiss.edu/davita-watkins/

To learn more about the Watkins Research Laboratory or to apply to be a researcher, visit https://watkinsresearchgroup.org/.

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