Helen Murray Free Endowment Lecture

It is with great sadness and deep respect that we share the news of Helen Murray Free's passing.  On May 1st, 2021, at the age of 98, she died following complications from a stroke.  We are so fortunate to have the Helen Murray Free Endowed Lecture as a tribute to her contributions to science.  She joined us remotely for the 2021 public lecture, the recording link is provided below. 

See the Wooster News article for more information.

Read her obituaries:



Helen Murray Free graduated with a B.A. in chemistry from The College of Wooster in 1945. Her research in clinical chemistry revolutionized diagnostic testing, particularly the "dip-and-read" glucose tests for diabetics, and she was awarded seven patents for her clinical diagnostic test inventions. From 1987 to 1992, she chaired the American Chemical Society's (ACS) National Chemistry Week Task Force, and in 1993 she served as president of the ACS. She and her husband, Alfred, were inducted into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame in 2000, and in 2010, the ACS designated the development of diagnostic test strips as a National Historic Chemical Landmark. That same year, she was awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation by President Obama. In 2011, Helen was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, NY.

The Helen Murray Free Endowed Lecture Series was established by Helen's children and endowed through the Al and Helen Free Foundation. Each year, this endowed fund will bring to campus a renowned chemical scientist, who will interact with chemistry students at a technical level and present an all-college convocation on the contributions of science to the quality of life.


Malika Jeffries-EL
Malika Jeffries-EL, Ph.D.

Associate Dean, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Materials Science and Engineering, Boston University

Links to Lecture Recordings:

  • Scientific Talk: Design and synthesis of organic electronic materials

    The past two decades has seen a dramatic increase in the number of consumer electronics in use. Previously, most households had a landline phone, one or two televisions and the occasional desktop computer. These days most people own numerous electronic devices, resulting in an increased demand on the semiconducting materials that drive this technology, in addition to the energy needed to power them. Accordingly, there has been a large amount of interest in the development of organic semiconductors, as many of the inorganic materials used in these devices are in limited supply.  Organic semiconductors are either polymers or small molecules that feature and extended pi-conjugation. These materials possess many exceptional electronic, optical and thermal properties and thus are well suited for applications, such as transistors, solar cells and light emitting diodes. Unfortunately, there are several issues that have to be addressed before real-life products can be developed. Our group focuses on the design and synthesis of new organic semiconductors based on low cost and/or easily prepared starting materials. Since the properties of organic semiconductors can be readily modified through chemical synthesis, we have turned our attention towards the design and synthesis of novel aromatic building blocks. Our system of choice, benzobisazoles has many exceptional electronic, optical and thermal properties making them suitable for diverse range of organic semiconducting applications. Our group developed several new materials based on benzobisoxazoles including wide band gap materials for use in organic light-emitting diodes and narrow band gap materials for use in photovoltaic cells. We have also developed a versatile synthesis of benzodifuran, the oxygen analog of the popular electron rich building block benzodithiophene and have developing narrow band gap conjugated polymers based on it. Concurrently, we are also making molecular species based on this building block. Our work on the synthesis and properties and utility of these materials will be presented.

  • Public Lecture: Taking the road less travelled: My journey to the Ivory Tower - 7:30 PM Virtually Via Teams

    Although African Americans make up approximately 13% of the US population, they are severely underrepresented in advanced degrees awarded in STEM disciplines and within the ranks of the faculty at research institutions. Despite the overwhelming statistics, Dr. Jeffries-EL pursued and completed a doctorate degree in chemistry, obtained and academic job, and then tenure in promotion in due course. She was born in Brooklyn, NY where she lived in public housing and attended public school. Although her situation was less than ideal, she always had a passion for science that her parents encouraged her to pursue. In this talk, Dr. Jeffries-EL will discuss what excites her about science along with current trends, pipeline issues and potential solutions woven within the content of her personal experiences.

Biography: http://sites.bu.edu/el/

Malika Jeffries-EL received BA degrees in Chemistry and Africana Studies at Wellesley College and M. Phil and Ph.D. degrees in chemistry from The George Washington University. After spending one year at Smith College as a Mendenhall Fellow she worked as a post-doctoral researcher under the direction of Professor Richard D. McCullough at Carnegie Mellon University. In 2005, she joined the faculty in the Chemistry Department at Iowa State University and was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 2012. She was a Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Professor in the chemistry department of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2015. She joined the Department of Chemistry and Division of Materials Science at Boston University in 2016. Since July 2020 she has served as the Associate Dean of the Graduate School in Arts and Sciences.

Dr. Jeffries-EL's research focuses on the development of organic semiconductors–materials that combine the processing properties of polymers with the electronic properties of semiconductors. She has authored over 40 publications, received over 3700 citations and given over 100 lectures domestically and abroad. She has won numerous awards including the 3M Non-Tenured Faculty Award (2008), the Lloyd Ferguson Award from the National Organization of Black Chemist and Chemical Engineers (2009), NSF CAREER award (2009), the ACS-Women Chemist Committee Rising Star award (2012) the Iota Sigma Pi Agnes Fay Morgan Award (2013) and ACS Fellow (2018). She is currently an Associate Editor for the Journal of Materials Chemistry C. She has also served on the editorial advisory boards for Macromolecules and Chemical and Engineering News. Professor EL, is also a staunch advocate for diversity and dedicated volunteer that has served in several activities within the American Chemical Society including the advisory board for the Women Chemist of Color Initiative and the Women Chemist Committee. She also serves the community through her work with Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated (AKA). Dr. Jeffries-EL is a native of Brooklyn, New York.

Past Lecturers*

Geraldine (Geri) Richmond, Presidential Chair of Science and Professor Chemistry,
University of Oregon

Geraldine (Geri) Richmond is an international expert in environmental chemistry who has also dedicated her career to increasing the success of women in the sciences. She is the Presidential Chair in Science and Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oregon. Her research using laser spectroscopy and computational methodsfocuses on understanding environmentally and technologically important processes that occur at liquid surfaces. A native of Kansas, Richmond received her B.S. in chemistry from Kansas State University in 1976 and her Ph.D. in physical chemistry under the direction of George Pimentel at the University of California, Berkeley in 1980. After her first faculty appointment as assistant professor at Bryn Mawr College she moved to the University of Oregon where she has been since 1985.

Richmond is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is a Fellow of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the American Physical Society (APS), the Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Association for Women in Science. She has served in leadership roles on many international, national and state governing and advisory boards. Website: http://richmondscience.uoregon.edu. Read the press release

Technical Lecture: Surf, Sink or Swim: Understanding Environmentally Important Processes at Water Surfaces
Public Lecture: The Importance of Global Scientific Engagement


Joseph S. Francisco, President's Distinguished Professor,
Department of Earth and Environmental Science,
University of Pennsylvania

Joseph S. Francisco recently joined the Department of Earth and Environmental Science, University of Pennsylvania as the President's Distinguished Professor. Since 2014, he has served as the Elmer H. and Ruby M. Cordes Chair in Chemistry & Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His research interests include atmospheric chemistry, tropospheric and stratospheric chemical kinetics and modeling, atmospheric spectroscopy and photochemistry, and aerosol and cloud chemistry. Among his many professional roles and honors, Dr. Francisco is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, served as a member of President Barack Obama's President's Committee on the National Medal of Science (2010-2015), and was president of the American Chemical Society. For a more detailed biography please select this link: Joseph S. Francisco biography (.pdf). Read the press release.

        • Technical Lecture - From Atmospheric Complexes to Aerosols: New Insights into Atmospheric Chemistry
        • Public Lecture - How We Can Rebuild Trust in Science— And Why We Must


Bassam Z. Shakhashiri, The William T. Evjue Distinguished Chair for the Wisconsin Idea, Department of Chemistry; Director, Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy, University of Wisconsin-Madison; President, the American Chemical Society, 2012.


Madeleine Jacobs, President & CEO, Council of Scientific Society Presidents, Former Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the American Chemical Society.


Ned Heindel, H.S. Bunn Chair Professor of Chemistry at Lehigh University and a consultant on drug development for Azevan Pharmaceuticals.


Paul Anderson, Retired Senior Vice President of chemical and physical sciences for the DuPont-Merck Pharmaceuticals Company.


Susan Solomon, Ellen Swallow Richards Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Climate Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

2012 - Fall

Sam Niedbala, Professor of practice in the Chemistry Department at Lehigh University and CEO of DeTect Biosciences LLC.

2012 - Spring

Catherine Hunt, R&D Director of Innovation Sourcing and Sustainable Technologies at The Dow Chemical Company.

*Affiliations at time of lecture