1. What made you want to be a chemist?
My curiosity! Born with a strong dose of curiosity, I found early in life that this drive addicted me to chemistry. I found that no matter how many problems were solved, their solutions led to so many more new questions. That feature alone has made chemistry an insatiably exciting hobby, my “best friend”, and a lifetime career.
2. If you weren’t a chemist and could do any other job, what would it be – and why?
Probably a landscape architect. Firstly, I enjoy performing physical work. Secondly, I intuitively enjoy thinking about the unique function, dynamics and possible benefits that architecture contributes to structure at the pico-, nano- and micro-scale level. I believe one should expect to find similar issues at the macroscopic level. Undoubtedly, that is why I enjoy horticulture/gardening so much as a hobby.
3. How can chemists best contribute to the world at large?
Chemistry is so pervasive in life; the environment, our health, society and even our presence in the universe. As practitioners of such a ubiquitous discipline it is our responsibility to be certain that our efforts are positive and for the good of all these issues.
4. Which historical figure would you most like to have dinner with – and why?
Undoubtedly, John Dalton, Manchester, England (1766- 1844). I have always admired his courage, vision and commitment that led to his “New System of Chemical Philosophy” (1808). His vision and efforts launched our traditional chemistry platform from which all chemists have enjoyed, enhanced and derived benefits. I toast to Dalton on each of my birthdays since we share the same birthday (September 5), however, 172 years apart.
5. When was the last time you did an experiment in the lab – and what was it?
I conducted a dendrimer synthesis and a photochemical experiment within the past six months. I was curiosity driven by why a particular nanoscale dendrimer we had synthesized exhibited extraordinary fluorescence properties yet possessed no traditional fluorescent chromophores. At this time, these fluorescent properties have been confirmed; however, I still do not have a complete answer as to why they exhibit fluorescence.
6. If exiled on a desert island, what one book and one CD would you take with you?
My favorite book is The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci. I never cease to be amazed by his extraordinary discipline, articulation and keen observations on all aspects of life. My favorite CD would contain all the compositions/works of Wolfgang Mozart. I always seem to find fresh inspirations, excitement, new ideas and fulfillment in the presence of his unique notes, scales, musical patterns and sounds.
Donald A. Tomalia is Director of The National Dendrimer & Nanotechnology Center and Distinguished Research Scientist/Professor at Central Michigan University. He is engaged in research with a focus on nanomaterial synthesis (i.e., dendrimers, metal nanoclusters, etc.), their nano-stoichiometries, nano-sterics and the identification of nanoperiodic reactivity and assembly patterns associated with these well defined nanomaterials to produce higher complexity.