Edolph A. Larson and Truman E. Anderson, Sr. Chair of Chemistry
Established in 1988, this chair in chemistry was made possible with estate gifts from two friends of the college who shared a life-long career in chemistry. Edolph A. Larson ’14, a member of the St. Olaf Band under F. M. Christiansen and a generous contributor to several St. Olaf funds, a taught chemistry at Joliet Junior College in Illinois. Truman E. Anderson, an active Lutheran layman and member of the St. Olaf Board of Regents from 1962 to 1972, was a pioneer in developing ethical standards for the oil and gas industry. Previous holders of this chair are Wesley A. Pearson ’54, Gary O. Spessard and Dr. Gary Miessler.
Robert Hanson received the BS from the California Institute of Technology in 1979 and the PhD from Columbia University in 1984. After a postdoctoral fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he joined the St. Olaf College Department of Chemistry in 1986. He was promoted to the rank of Full Professor in 2003.
Over a highly productive research career, he has received many grants and awards, including from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Research Corporation, the American Chemical Society, DuPont, Eli Lilly, the W.M. Keck Foundation, as well as St. Olaf’s own Magnus the Good grant. His contributions to the life of the college include serving twice on the Curriculum Committee and as Alumni Liaison.
He writes, “I’m very interested in the process by which beginning students learn chemistry. One of my innovations is ‘Data-Driven Chemistry,’ which I use when teaching our interim course, Chemistry 123, Atomic and Molecular Structure. The data-driven method is based on the idea that science is fundamentally data-oriented. As applied to introductory chemistry, the idea is to present students with sets of information (“data”) and get them, working in groups, to build clear, concise models of atomic and molecular structure strictly from the data presented. . . . The goal of data-driven chemistry, then, is to encourage students to build their own personal model of chemical structure based on real data.”