|Tom Welter - Class of 1970 |
Eastman Kodak Company
Give a brief description of your work. What do you find most
interesting about it? What would you consider to be your greatest
Since leaving graduate school in 1977, I have worked at the Research Laboratories at Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester NY. Over my career I have been responsible for the design and synthesis of novel organic chemicals for a variety of uses. These end uses have included, conventional and "instant" photographic products such as instant pictures, color paper, and slide films; products in the life sciences arena: chemotherapeutics, agrochemicals, and clinical assays components; and more recently chiral dopants for cholesteric liquid crystal displays and new organic semiconducting materials. I am fascinated by the engineering of chemical structures to do useful things; using physical chemical data and mechanistic insights to design novel structures that perform valuable functions. Nothing in my professional career has been more fun than to doodle a new structure on a piece of paper, devise a method for its preparation, make useful amounts of the new compound, and watch the material perform its designed function. Over my career I have discovered novel materials in every arena in which I have worked, leading to more than fifty US patent applications. That achievement coupled with working on multidisciplinary teams with hundreds of talented scientists has proved most rewarding and enjoyable.
What, if anything, did you need to do after graduating from St.
Thomas to prepare you for your career?
After leaving UST I attended graduate school, first at Texas A&M University where I earned an MS in synthetic organic chemistry with R. D. Stipanovic working on a new synthesis of the phytoalexin hemigossypol; then after a short stint in the US Air Force, on to the University of Wisconsin, where I received a Ph.D in organic chemistry working on di-pi-methane photochemistry with H. E. Zimmerman. Finally, on to the Kodak.
What parts of your St. Thomas education do you look back on as most
helpful in preparing you for your career?
I remember very fondly my time at St. Thomas. I was a member of a small class with just five ACS-track chemistry majors, we all spent most of our last two years together, often under the auspices of the Chemistry Club. This camaraderie held me in good stead through the often very challenging course of study. That and the chemistry department faculty who did all they could to make us each successful, made my time at UST both valuable and memorable. No one influence my career more than Professor Richard Morath; his fresh, enthusiastic approach to organic chemistry, particularly the laboratory sessions, led me straight to where I am today. I believe that the direct individual interactions of talented, motivated professors with the undergraduate students is the single most valuable service that institutions like UST can provide. Certainly such interactions are limited in many institutions today, much to detriment of our field and that of other sciences in the US.
Other comments: Even after all of these years, from my first research efforts on the nitration of hydroxyfluorenes in 1969 on the third floor of Albertus Magnus Hall at the College of St. Thomas, until today (I will head to my lab in a few minutes) I enjoy the science, craft, and art of synthetic organic chemistry. The excitement of designing new compounds and watching them do useful things has been and still is great fun.