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“Thou Our Guide in Quest for Knowledge”

The Zaworotko Years, 1999- 2013


Helpful background was provided by Dr. Randy Larsen, Professor and Chair, Department of Chemistry. “In 1998 the Department faculty had a vision to raise the Department of Chemistry to National prominence by growing the department with prominent scholars, developing state-of-the-art research infrastructure, and increasing the size and quality of the graduate program. The emphasis was placed on enhancing impactful research while maintaining rigorous teaching standards. Mike was recruited to shepherd the department through this process and he joined the faculty as Chair in 1999. (Larsen, 2013)”

The Man

Michael John Zaworotko (“Dr. Z”) is a unique individual on several counts.

He was the first “external” chair, i.e., a chair hired specifically to be Department Chairman, as opposed to the previous ones who were promoted from within starting with the official granting of departmental status in the fall of 1964. He was probably unique as well to the extent that he became internationally recognized. He was unique to the extent that he planned ahead, and he was surely impressive by the extent to which he could convince upper administration to support the department in significant ways.

His background was interesting, being the son of a Welsh mother and a Ukrainian father, who like many Ukrainians fled the Russian army recapturing the Ukraine. His father moved westward in the latter years of World War II and managed to make his way to the United Kingdom (Martin, 1999).

Mike was admitted to Imperial College London, where a significant mentor in inorganic chemistry was Professor Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson, a Nobel Laureate. Mike received his B.Sc. (hons) in 1977. He encountered his doctoral mentor when Dr. Jerry Atwood, then a professor of chemistry at the University of Alabama was visiting London and was looking for outstanding, prospective graduate students, and Wilkinson introduced him to Mike. Dr. Atwood was impressed and later made an offer of an assistantship, which he accepted and did his graduate work at Alabama (Ph.D., 1982). After post-doctoral experience (University of Victoria), he joined the faculty of St. Mary’s (Nova Scotia) as an assistant professor and ending as a full professor and department chair (1985-97). Subsequently, he was Dean of Arts and Sciences at the University of Winnipeg (1/1998-09/1999), prior to joining USF as professor and chair of chemistry in 1999 until the end of his second term in August 2008. As a faculty member, administrator, and person, he was unique and no doubt remains so. One characteristic of this handsome, talented man as noted (Fig 5-1) was his aversion to formal attire.

Fig 5-1. Dr. Michael J. Zaworotko November 2013. Picture courtesy Ms. Aleksandra Karolak

During his term of office a number of changes occurred or were set in motion, including the following.

Base Funding

“Dr. Z “ held office in years before USF experienced a budget crunch, owing to the notable national recession. But in those years, he was able to take advantage of so-called one-time funding that was designed to support unique situations, e.g. a new hire. After several such cycles, the one-time funding became converted and it augmented the department’s base budget. With judicious management, there was money remaining at the end of the fiscal year that could be converted to “carry-over money”. Such money with good planning could be used for a type of investment, e.g., necessary permanent equipment.

After 2008, however, due to the change in economic tempo, USF ‘s budget mandated that carry-forward money was needed to support the enhanced student credit hours (SCH). For Chemistry, these hours increased, owing to a transfer of responsibility for pre-medical majors and an understandable enthusiasm of future physicians for two necessary courses in general chemistry and organic chemistry. But two problems occurred. First, while the support increased, by 2013 it had not increased in direct proportion to the enhanced responsibility (Fig. 5 -2, -3). Second, carry-forward money has no time limit for expenditure, but the additional money for additional SCH was provided by the college, and it was not transferred to the departmental budget.

Fig 5-2. Fundable student credit hours and faculty as a function of time (academic year 1999/2000 - 2012/2013

Fig 5-3. Undergraduate majors, 2000-2012, with color coding for categories. BMS (Biomedical Sciences), INS (Interdisciplinary Natural Sciences), MET (medical technology)

Dr. Z. realized that he had ceased chairmanship at an opportune time.

Core Facilities

Dr. Zaworotko realized the importance of expanding our limited core facilities. And he convinced Central Administration to invest in x-ray equipment which he needed to continue his pioneering work in “crystal engineering”. This was equipment that the department had needed for years, but had depended on purchasing services or relying on the charity of persons at better equipped universities.

This made it possible to create a notable material science area, starting with a single faculty member (Dr. Zaworotko), and leading to the involvement of several: Drs. Mohamed Eddaoudi, Shengqian Ma, Xin Wang ,and Zaworotko (until December 2013), as well as the creation of a notable center, and the attraction of significant federal funding.

Table 5-1. Examples of equipment available

Core Equipment
Solid State Structure/Characterization Single crystal x-ray Powder pattern x-ray diffractometer
UV/Visible spectrometer
FT-IR spectrometer
Differential Scanning Calorimeter
Thermogravimetric analyzer
Sorption balances
NMR Core Facility Varian UnityInova500 spectrometer
Varian UnityInova 400 spectrometer
Varian vxr 300 spectrometer
DRX 250 spectrometer
UnityInova 600 spectrometer
Direct Drive 500 spectrometer
Mass Spectrometry/ Peptide Synthesis Core Applied Biosystems 433A Peptide Synthesizer Dionex Summit Preparatory and Analytical scale HPLC’s Bruker Autoflex MALDI-TOF Agilent Technologies LC/MSD VL Agilent Technologies LC/TOF Aviv 215 Circular Dichroism Agilent 6540 QTOF 6460 Triple Quad

Important equipment in the CMD5 faculty is available, but not described here.

The core facilities expanded in an impressive way, but others were the beneficiaries of his abilities to engage the understanding of administrators.

The “Investment Strategy”

Mike developed what one might call an “investment strategy” that was manifested in two stages.

First, he chose to invest in productive persons by hiring faculty members who had significant post-doctoral experience with significant evidence of productivity. Dr. Mohamed Eddaoudi was a prime example of the success of this policy because he developed a successful research group, attracted significant funding, developed an international reputation, because of significant publications that were published in first- tier journals, and were well cited by other researchers. Dr. Eddaoudi also achieved rapid recognition by being granted tenure and promotion to a full professorship.

Secondly, he documented the “pay-off”. Each faculty member who enters a department per force receives start-up funds. Mike was likely the first to develop a comparison of what had been paid out in start-up funds vis-à-vis what the pay-off was in terms of overhead funds from grants generated by the faculty members during the time of his first term. Those data are not available at the time of this writing, but he was the first chair in memory to take this useful approach and circulate the information.
Mike’s two terms as Department Chair ended in 2009, and he was replaced as chair by Dr. Randy Larsen, who had been hired as an associate professor from the University of Hawaii (January, 2002), then subsequently promoted to full professor (August, 2005).

Fig 5-4. Dr. Randy W. Larsen

A more recent example was provided by Dr. Larsen, who acquired and examined the pertinent data, e.g., the cost of start-up funds provided to faculty members hired between 2000 and 2009, and the total return in F&A funds.

During the nine-year period, the total commitment was $4,826,650 and the total F&A return $3,181,673, of a 66% return on investment, and presumably the percent return could be expected to increase with time for those faculty hired during this time.

Progress in Graduate Education

An increased emphasis on the Ph.D. program was effected because of the greater return on the investment. The change over time is indicated (Fig 5-4).

Fig.5-5. Number of graduate students in the Department of Chemistry, 2000-2012

Areas of Emphasis

Three areas of emphasis were significant in enhancing the Ph.D. program in the Department of Chemistry.

  1. Improvement in the quality and quantity of graduate applicants (average GRE scores were 1174 in 2006, an all-time high).
  2. Emphasis on milestone attainment enhanced demands to complete appropriate requirements at appropriate times (e.g., Promotion to Candidacy, Dissertation Committee Formation, Original Research Proposal Presentation, Research Data Presentation, each with windows of opportunity but each with deadlines) led to successful achievement of graduation requirements within a five-year period.
  3. Enhanced professional requirements, e.g., presentation of research results at significant technical meetings ( either posters or oral presentations) has led to greater exposure of the Department and its graduate program, significant enhancement of student professionalism, and establishment of a student’s range of professional acquaintances

The quality of entering graduate students has increased 2006-2007 to the Fall of 2012 as indicated in Table 5-2.

Table 5-2. Profile of entering graduate students

Enhanced Teaching and Research Space

In a report to the College of Arts and Sciences chairs’ council in 2007, Dr. Zaworotko noted restrictions to expansion because of limitations of personnel and research space. The department research program has benefited from enhanced space in two areas:

  1. The Interdisciplinary Science Building allowed enhanced organic chemistry teaching laboratories that removed an advancement bottleneck for training preliminary to advance chemistry programs.
  2. The space created by Provost Wilcox in the Interdisciplinary Research Building allowed space for two programs SMMARTT (Smart Metal-organic Materials Advanced Research and Technology Transfer Group) and CMD5 (Center for Molecular Diversity in Drug Design, Discovery and Delivery), the first generated $3 million in research funding since 2008, the second $10 million in research funding during the same period.

Expansion of space

New space became available, including NES (Natural and Environmental Sciences), the IRDB (Interdisciplinary Research Building), and ISB (Interdisciplinary Science Building). In addition the Chemistry Building was thoroughly renovated.

Fig. 5-6. Renovated Chemistry Building–view from south. Older readers will note the absence of the so-called “Jewel Box”, figure courtesy of Dr. Joseph Stanko

Fig. 5-7. Room CHE 102 has a capacity of 55 persons, and features a Teaching Station (please see below) with AV equipment, all maintained by USF Classroom Technology Services []

Fig. 5-8. Typical teaching station in Chemistry Building

Fig.5-9. CHE 100 – Dr. Theodore Askounes Ashford Lecture Hall. This room, named in honor of USF’s first full professor of Chemistry, holds just over 200 students. A useful feature are the numbered seats that allow lecturers to verify student attendance and responses to quizzes by use of student-purchased “clickers”.

Fig. 5-10. A suite of offices on the second floor provide the reception area, the office of the Department Chair, Assistant Chair, and Business Manager, as well as a work room housing office equipment. Other personnel are housed in adjacent offices.

Fig. 5-11. The NES (Natural and Environmental Sciences) Building. This four-story building, completed in 2005, houses organic chemists, as well as part of the School of Geosciences. One of the core facilities is on the fourth floor. General Chemistry laboratories are located on the first floor, organic chemistry, analytical, and physical chemistry laboratories are located on the second floor.

Fig. 5-12. A general chemistry laboratory before the start of a term (NES)

Fig. 5-13. An organic chemistry laboratory before the start of a term (NES).

Fig. 5-14. ISB (InterdisciplinaryScience Building)

Fig. 5-15. The IDRB was built to provide Class A laboratory space for eligible faculty. A major portion (white wing, left) is attached by a Galleria (curved building) to the second portion (right) for start-ups and firms that wish to be located in a university setting. IDRB is managed by the Office of Research & Innovation. At present the facility houses computational chemistry, the solid state core facility, and SMMARTT (Smart Metal-organic Materials Advanced Research and Technology Transfer Group) on the second floor. CMD5 (Center for Molecular Diversity in Drug Design, Discovery and Delivery) and the CMD5 core facility is housed on the third floor. The interdisciplinary concept was approved and significantly supported by Provost Wilcox.

Some Notable Changes

  • The telephones on the Jewel Box –one for on-campus calls and one coin-operated for off-campus calls –were removed, as cell phones became popular.
  • The Jewel Box was removed in the latest renovation.
  • Our first scientific glassblower, Mr. Ron Quincel, was hired in 1964. The third, Mr. Michael P. Arias, died in 2005 and was not replaced. Instead, Dr. Lukasz Wojtas was named Director of the X-ray Facility.
  • With an increase in the number of chemistry majors and an increase in the number of student credit hours, and an enhanced effort to increase the percent of USF students graduating within six years the number of advisors was increased from one to five, by support of the Office of Academic affairs and through assignment by Dean Eisenberg.
  • Permanent Instructorships developed as a consequence of an increase in the number of majors in the Department of Chemistry to about 4,500 and demands of enhanced student demand generated increased student credit hours. These persons were non tenure track faculty and were guaranteed continued employment based on continued quality performance and continued need. Subsequently, the University created three different ranks of Instructors: Level I, Level II, and Level III. Dr. Patricia Muisener, in 2011, was the first in the Department to be promoted to Instructor Level II, which is titled Senior Instructor.
  • More faculty (A total of 36; Please see Appendix 1).
  • Addition of Dr. Randy Larsen to the faculty.

Fig. 5-16. Dr. Patricia Muisener, Assistant chair and first Senior Instructor in Chemistry

Personal Achievements—Dr. Zaworotko

Mike was a world traveler presenting seminars around the world as is evident from his CV

He was also elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2012.

In 2013, he was named a Distinguished University Professor, one of two named that year, and bringing the number in chemistry up to two. The awards were presented in October in a ceremony held at the Marshall Student Center. Neither recipient was able to be present.

The Ending

On Wednesday, June 19, 2013, Dr. Randy Larsen, Professor and Chair, sent an e-Mail message (Larsen, 2013).

“I must regrettably report that Mike Zaworotko will be leaving USF for the University of Limerick in Ireland at the end of the Fall 2013 semester. This brings to a close a significant era in the development and growth of the Department of Chemistry at USF. ” …

“Mike exploited a time at which the State of Florida was making significant investments in the University system to hire outstanding faculty, build our current core facilities and enhance the graduate program. Mike certainly provided key leadership for this process that has now taken us to the top half of chemistry departments at AAU universities in terms of NRC rankings. This success came, in part, from Mike’s continued to push for increasing our quantifiable measures of success including publications in high impact journals, extramural funding, and highly visible and impactful research. “

“In parallel with his role as department Chair, Mike established incredible research efforts in both porous materials and crystal engineering. This research effort rapidly propelled Mike to be listed as 20 on the ‘most impactful chemists’ since 2000. His citation rate is astounding with over 22,000! Five of Mike’s publications have over 600 citations! Mike’s research also extended beyond his own laboratory and has influenced research not only within the department (including my own) but also across campus. Mike was one of the initial authors of the USF-BITT proposal, has served as the USF-SMMARTT director since its founding in 2005 and has been a leader in the area of porous materials and pharmaceutical formulations at USF.”

“However, the more severe the storm the greater is the silver lining of opportunity! Mike has indicated his interested in continuing a strong research relationship with USF involving both materials chemistry and co-crystal development. We have discussed the formation of a Global Functional Materials Network of which USF could be the U.S. hub. This represents a very exciting opportunity to continue to develop the Department of Chemistry as a ‘Global Department’ which includes our relationship with KAUST. I, for one, am looking forward to this opportunity with great excitement! Once again, we are poised to become leaders in such a global effort! We will also be working to add additional high impact faculty in the area of porous materials leveraging our world class reputation in this area and cutting edge infra-structure.”

“I am looking forward our continued rise in prominence and exploiting the opportunities that lie ahead


Most figures were taken from a Power Point presentation made by Dr. Larsen (2012)

Several building pictures were taken from the virtual tour, prepared by the author, but Ms. Karla Willman kindly provided the picture of the Interdisciplinary Science Building.

Helpful information and insights were provided by Dr. Larsen and Dr. Muisener. Helpful photographs were provided by Ms.Aleksandra Karolak, including one of Dr. Zaworotko (Fig. 5-1), who refused to be photographed in academic regalia for a formal portrait like those of other department chairs. Special thanks go to Mr. Brant Tudor , who assisted with presentation of certain graphs and other services in his capacity as Department Webmaster, and Mrs. Barbara B. Martin for helpful comments.

Literature Cited

  • Larsen, R. W. 2012. Where we’ve been. Where we are. Where we are headed. Presentation to faculty, staff , and students present at a formal visit from President Judy Genshaft and Provost Ralph Wilcox, ???, 2012
  • Larsen, R. W. 2013. Mike Zaworotko. E-mail sent Wednesday, July 19.
  • Martin, D. F. 1999. personal conversation with Dr. Zaworotko.
  • Zaworotko, M.J. n.d. Centrality of Chemistry. Unpublished document distributed to chemistry faculty.
  • Zaworotko, M.J. n.d. Sustainability of programs offered by the Department of Chemistry. Unpublished document distributed to chemistry faculty.