The Susan A. Odom Lecture

This lecture series commemorates the life and legacy of Professor Susan Odom, an energetic, productive, and driven faculty member in the Department of Chemistry from 2011 to 2021. It features speakers noted for outstanding research in Professor Odom’s fields of synthetic and materials chemistry.

Susan Odom, a native of Paducah, Kentucky, always had an intense sense of curiosity and a passion for science.  She attended the University of Kentucky for her undergraduate studies, specializing in organic chemistry and performing research in the development of new materials for organic light-emitting diodes. A highly productive researcher from the start, she was listed as a co-author on four peer-reviewed publications, the lead author on one publication, and was a co-inventor on a royalty-generating patent before completing her undergraduate work.  She earned her Ph.D. from the Georgia Institute of Technology, supported by a National Science Foundation (NSF) Doctoral Fellowship to work with Professor Seth Marder, in the development of new charge-transporting materials for flexible electronics. She followed her funding success to earn a Post-Doctoral Fellowship from the NSF to work under Professor Jeffrey Moore at University of Illinois Urbana Champagne in the area of self-healing polymers.

Dr. Odom returned to the University of Kentucky as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry in 2011, and was tenured and promoted to Associate Professor in 2017.  Dr. Odom established herself as an unfaltering proponent of undergraduate and high-school research, hosting numerous students in her laboratory and producing peer reviewed publications from their research efforts. She focused on outreach to younger students and the public, showing for example the strong relationships between science and art. Dr. Odom was a co-organizer of the Expanding Your Horizons program, a STEM conference for middle school girls and their parents, to encourage young women to pursue careers in science and engineering.  She also was active in the Kentucky American Council of Education Women’s Network, which supports the advancement of women in higher education.

Dr. Odom’s established a robust and well-funded research program, serving as the principal investigator or co-investigator on numerous research grants, and served key positions in several large-scale collaborative research efforts. Her main research focus was in the area of power storage; when the often-quoted rail against renewable energy was uttered - ‘what happens when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow?’ - her vocal response was always ‘batteries!’.  Dr. Odom’s research efforts were lauded by the scientific community; from 2017 - 2019, she was a Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement Scialog Fellow for Advanced Energy Storage, and in 2020 she was awarded the American Chemical Society’s ‘Rising Star Award’ from the Women Chemists Committee. Dr. Odom pushed for excellence in every task that she undertook, and this lecture series was established to celebrate her spirit and commitment to excellence in materials chemistry.

The Susan A. Odom Endowment has been established to continue Professor Odom's vision of excellence and diversity in materials research.