Scratching the Surface of Science and

Geri Richmond’s interest in water is purely superficial—but that doesn’t make her work any less important. She seeks to understand the simplest properties of what holds a water surface together, which can be applied to everything from oil spills to baby diapers.

“This is about studying the fundamentals behind the most important surface properties on earth—the surface of water,” says Richmond, the UO’s Richard M. and Patricia H. Noyes Professor of Chemistry who recently was appointed by President Obama to the National Science Board.

More than just an invaluable natural resource, water bridges virtually all areas of science and technology. Richmond’s research into water surfaces examines some of the key chemical and physical processes of everyday life, such as how water interacts with membranes in the body and how environmental processes occur at liquid surfaces. Some of her recent projects include an examination of sulfur dioxide absorption on aqueous surfaces (i.e., the mechanics behind atmospheric pollution and acid rain) published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society and a National Science Foundation–funded interdisciplinary collaboration with a group of physicists and chemists to boost the efficiency of solar cells.

“I see these projects as a means of discovery,” Richmond says. “And more importantly, I see them as a means of training and working closely with research students.”

Long before she dreamed of being a scientist, Richmond wanted to be a teacher and that desire has clearly informed her research career. She says that she can’t imagine a more satisfying and enjoyable career than the combination of scientific research and teaching.

A twenty-seven-year veteran of the UO, Richmond says she’s been able to conduct important research projects while also having the opportunity to contribute in other capacities, such as mentoring women scientists and graduate students around the world. From 1999 to 2006, Richmond served on the Oregon State Board of Higher Education, the statutory governing board of the Oregon University System and its seven universities.

Inducted into the National Academy of Sciences in 2011, Richmond was recently awarded the American Physical Society’s 2013 Davisson-Germer Prize in Surface or Atomic Physics, and she received the American Chemical Society’s 2013 Charles Lathrop Parsons Award for her advocacy on behalf of higher education, science policy, and women scientists.

Richmond cofounded the Committee on the Advancement of Women Chemists (COACh), an organization that provides mentoring and support to women scientists around the globe, and she’s been a longtime advocate for women in science. She’s been invited to the White House, given testimony before Congress, and with financial support from the Department of State, is currently working on several projects with women scientists in developing countries.

Richmond’s recent appointment to the National Science Board, a key appointment to the organization that acts as the oversight body for the National Science Foundation, follows her national service on numerous science advisory boards, with this being her first presidential appointment.

“I am honored to be selected for service on this board,” Richmond says, “and I look forward to working with others on the board to advance the cause for science in this nation.”