|Born||Eufaula, Oklahoma, United States|
|Residence||Norman, Oklahoma, United States|
|Institutions||University of Oklahoma|
|Alma mater||University of Oklahoma
University of Texas at Austin
|Doctoral advisor||Michael J. S. Dewar|
|Known for||Diversity in STEM work; Science advisor for Breaking Bad; Applying NMR to SWCNT characterization; Mechanistic patterns in alkene addition reactions; Evaluating organic chemistry textbook accuracy|
|Notable awards||ACS Fellow (2010); Fulbright Scholar (2007); AAAS Fellow (2005); NOW Woman of Courage Award (2004); Guggenheim Fellowship (2003); Ford Fellow (2003); NSF Special Creativity Extension (1989)|
Dr. Donna J. Nelson is a professor of chemistry at the University of Oklahoma. Nelson specializes in organic chemistry, which she both researches and teaches. Nelson's career has focused on five primary areas of research generally categorized in two areas, Scientific Research and America's Scientific Readiness. Within Scientific Research, Nelson's areas have been: (1) mechanistic patterns in alkene addition reactions and (2) Single-Walled Carbon Nanotube (SWCNT) functionalization and analysis. Under America's Scientific Readiness, she focuses on (3) science education, which includes classroom innovations and correcting organic chemistry textbook inaccuracies, (4) ethnic and gender diversity among highly-ranked science departments of research universities, and (5) improving the presentation of science and images of scientists to the public, such as serving as a science advisor to the AMC television show Breaking Bad.
- 1 Education and Career Milestones
- 2 Scientific Research
- 3 America's Scientific Readiness
- 3.1 Science Education
- 3.2 Research on Diversity in Science
- 3.3 Image of Science and Scientists in Society
- 4 Awards and Honors
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Education and Career Milestones
Nelson was born in Eufaula, Oklahoma. She earned her bachelor of science degree in chemistry at the University of Oklahoma. She then obtained her PhD in chemistry at the University of Texas at Austin with Michael J. S. Dewar and did post-doctorate work at Purdue University with 1979 Chemistry Nobel Laureate Herbert C. Brown. After her post-doctorate studies at Purdue, Nelson joined the University of Oklahoma as a faculty member. She was a Faculty Fellow in the University of Oklahoma Provost’s Office from 1989 to 1990. Nelson was a Visiting Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2003 and in 2010. She was an assistant to American Chemical Society President Ann Nalley from Nalley's election in 2004 through 2007.
Single-Walled Carbon Nanotube (SWCNT) Reactions
In 2005, Nelson began applying to Single-Walled Carbon Nanotube (SWCNT) reactions the knowledge gained from her earlier research on the effects of substituents upon reactions of alkenes. She applied nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) to examine the effects of substituents upon SWCNT reaction and association with a variety of classes of organic molecules, such as alcohols, amines, ketones, aldehdes, and nitro compounds. By doing this, she pioneered the application of NMR to functionalized and pristine SWCNT characterization and analysis.
Reactions of Alkenes
As a physical organic chemist, Nelson developed a new synthetically useful technique for gathering mechanistic information on addition reactions of alkenes. The investigations often permitted selection of one mechanism from several which are proposed. The technique has helped determine mechanisms of important addition reactions of alkenes, such as hydroboration, oxymercuration, bromination, the Wacker process, and the Wilkinson's catalyst reaction.  
America's Scientific Readiness
Improving Organic Chemistry Textbooks
In 2011, Nelson examined comprehensive undergraduate organic chemistry textbooks in use at that time, in order to determine consistency in cyclohexane conformation across the texts and with research literature; they recommended changes to remedy inconsistencies in cyclohexane conformer nomenclature and structural drawings across the textbooks. She and her students continue to evaluate currently-used undergraduate organic chemistry textbooks in order to identify other content at odds with research literature and characteristics which are most conducive to learning.
Nelson utilized her teaching assignment of large sections of organic chemistry to develop and evaluate learning devices for her students. The devices use a visual, rather than oral or written, presentation; two were adopted by publishers to accompany their major organic chemistry textbooks. She also surveyed students in order to determine factors which influence students to select or remain in science majors. Nelson's research results and materials from an education project, designed by Oklahoma high school students and involving precipitate-forming reactions conducted in microgravity on board the STS-40, are the subject of a permanent educational exhibit demonstrating the scientific method, at the Oklahoma Air and Space Museum.
Research on Diversity in Science
From FY2001 to FY2004, Nelson surveyed tenured and tenure-track university faculty members of the "top 50" departments in each of 14 science and engineering disciplines (chemistry, physics, mathematics, chemical engineering, civil engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, computer science, political science, sociology, economics, biological sciences, and psychology). Data were collected about race/ethnicity, gender, and rank, and are complete populations, rather than samples, so they accurately reveal the small number or complete absence of underrepresented groups. Data for all disciplines were obtained simultaneously and by a consistent protocol and are therefore comparable across a large number of disciplines. These became known as the Nelson Diversity Surveys.
That first study revealed that generally, women and minorities are significantly underrepresented on these faculties. For example, the first survey, completed in FY2002, showed that there were no black, Hispanic, or Native American tenured or tenure track women faculty in the top 50 computer science departments. For chemistry and chemical engineering faculties, her additional national origin data revealed that, recently, more immigrants have been hired as faculty than American females and American minorities combined. Analogous surveys were carried out for top 100 departments in each of 15 science and engineering disciplines, including earth science, in FY2005 and in FY2007.
Nelson's diversity research has been cited by dozens of newspapers, magazines, and journals, including Nature, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and CNN. The Government Accountability Office used Nelson's data for its July 2004 report to Congress on Title IX, specifically women's access to opportunities in the sciences. Nelson has also written about diversity in the STEM fields for outlets, such as PBS and the Association for Women in Science.
Image of Science and Scientists in Society
Science Advisor to AMC TV Series "Breaking Bad
Nelson is a proponent of scientific accuracy in television, film, and other moving media, as well as promoting the intersections of scientific communities and the public. She is one of the science advisers for the AMC TV series, Breaking Bad. After a plea for scientific help from the show's creator, Vince Gilligan, Nelson volunteered to advise the show in regards to organic chemistry. Dr. Nelson checked scripts and provided dialogue for the television show Breaking Bad. She also drew chemical structures and wrote chemical equations which were used as props. According to executive producer/creator Vince Gilligan, "[Because] Walter White was talking to his students, I was able to dumb down certain moments of description and dialogue in the early episodes which held me until we had some help from some honest-to-god chemists. We have a [chemist] named Dr. Donna Nelson at the University of Oklahoma who is very helpful to us and vets our scripts to make sure our chemistry dialogue is accurate and up to date. We also have a chemist with the Drug Enforcement Association based out of Dallas who has just been hugely helpful to us." Gilligan said, "Dr. Donna Nelson from the University of Oklahoma approached us several seasons back and said, "I really like this show, and if you ever need help with the chemistry, I'd love to lend a hand. She's been a wonderful advisor. We get help wherever we need it, whether it's chemistry, electrical engineering, or physics. We try to get everything correct. There's no full-time [advisor] on set, but we run certain scenes by these experts first." Nelson spoke of Gilligan's interested in having the science right, "[He] said it made a difference to him."
Hollywood Chemistry" Symposia
In order to span the science and entertainment communities, she organized a "Hollywood Chemistry" symposium at the March 2011 ACS National Meeting at Anaheim, CA. The symposium was so well-received that she was asked to organize a second symposium for the August 2011 ACS National Meeting at Denver, CO, "Science on the Hollywood Screen."
Big Bang Theory, Ig Nobel Award, and Other Contributions
She participated in the "Geek of the Week" program of David Saltzberg, by visiting the set of The Big Bang Theory in March 2013. In the 2011 Ig Nobel Awards, she gave a 24/7 presentation on her SWCNT research, in which she gave a technical talk appropriate for scientists to describe the work in 24 seconds, followed by 7 words which would clarify the work to all laypeople. The seven words were "SWCNT analyses should be shaken, not stored."
Native Americans and Diabetes
Awards and Honors
Nelson has received a number of honors and awards. These include being named American Chemical Society (ACS) Fellow (2010), Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame, (2013) ACS Oklahoma Chemist of the Year (2012), Women's eNews 21 Leaders for the 21st Century (2006), American Association for the Advancement of Science AAAS Fellow (2005), and Minority Health Professions Foundation Hall of Fame Inductee (2005). She has also received the ACS Nalley Award (2011), ACS Israel Award (2011), a Guggenheim Fellowship (2003), a National Organization for Women “Woman of Courage” Award (2004), a Ford Foundation Fellowship (2003), a Fulbright Scholarship (2007), a SACNAS Distinguished Scientist Award (2006), a National Science Foundation (NSF) ADVANCE Leadership Award (2006), Oklahoma Outstanding Professor Award (2005), Sigma Xi Faculty Research Award (2001), and NSF Special Creativity Extension (1989).
Nelson has written more than 100 peer-reviewed publications, and has given hundreds of invited presentations to national meetings of professional societies and organizations, universities, and radio and TV programs, such as The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and Marketplace Morning Report. The Journal of Organic Chemistry cover of February 4, 2005, and the ACS's Division of Organic Chemistry Calendar cover of September, 2006, each featured her research. The Chemical Heritage Foundation (2009), Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (2004), and JustGarciaHill (2003) each collected her history to add to their collections of prominent scientist biographies.
- American Chemical Society
- University of Oklahoma faculty page -- http://faculty-staff.ou.edu/N/Donna.J.Nelson-1/
- Appearance on OCAST's science radio show,"Oklahoma Innovations", Nov. 7, 2009
- Entertainment Today–MSNBC/Reuters, July 15, 2011.
- "(OETA) Oklahoma News Report" Educational Television Association, Nov. 7, 2011, Norman, OK, aired Nov. 11, 2011.
- Donna Nelson faculty page; University of Oklahoma; ; accessed May 23, 2013
- Donna Nelson faculty page; University of Oklahoma; ; accessed May 23, 2013
- Donna J. Nelson, Shagufta, and Ravi Kumar. “Characterization of a tamoxifen-tethered single-walled carbon nanotube conjugate by using NMR spectroscopy”. Anal. BioanalChem. 2012, 404, 771–776.
- Donna J. Nelson and Christopher N. Brammer. "Fluorine-Related Nanoscience with Energy Applications". ACS Symposium Series 1064, American Chemical Society. Washington, DC, 2011.
- Nelson, Donna J.; Brammer, Christopher N.; Nagarajan, Panneer S.; Perumal Paramasivan T. "Association of Representative Amides and Aminoalcohols with SWCNT as Revealed by NMR. Fluorine-related Nanoscience with Energy Applications". ACS Symposium Series 1064, American Chemical Society. Washington, DC, 2011, p. 31.
- Nelson, Donna J.; Murugesan, M.; Brammer, Christopher N.; Nagarajan, P. "Effects of NaHCO3 Washing and Change in Reagent Order upon the Reaction of Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes with Thionyl Chloride and PMMA". Polymer Preprints., Am. Chem. Soc. 2010, 51 (1), 191.
- Nelson, Donna J.; Murugesan, M.; Brammer, Christopher N. "Effects of Sodium Bicarbonate Treatment on the Structure of Single-walled Carbon Nanotube Brands, Studied by Raman and Ultraviolet-Visible Spectroscopy". Polymer Preprints., Am. Chem. Soc. 2010, 51 (1), 577
- Nelson, Donna J.; Brammer, Christopher N.; Nagarajan, Panneer S.; Perumal, Paramasivan T. "Effect of Single-Walled Carbon Nanotube Association upon 1H NMR Spectra of Representative Organonitrogen Compounds". J. Phys. Chem". C 2010, 114, 10140-10147.
- Nelson, Donna J.; Brammer, Christopher N. "Pristine Single-Walled Carbon Nanotube Purity Evaluation by using 1H NMR Spectroscopy". Anal. Bioanal. Chem. 2009, 394, 1079-1086.
- Nelson, Donna J.; Perumal, Paramasivan T.; Brammer, Christopher N.; Nagarajan, Panneer S. "Effect of Single-Walled Carbon Nanotube Association upon Representative Amides". J. Phys. Chem. C 2009, 113, 17378–17386.
- Jaisankar, Sellamuthu N.; Nelson, Donna J.; Brammer, Christopher N. "New Synthesis and Characterization of Ionic Polyurethane-urea Liquid Crystals". J Polymer. 2009, 50, 4775-4780.
- Nelson, Donna J.; Strano, Michael. "Saving the world with nanotechnology". Nature Nanotechnology. 2006, 1, 96.
- Soloshonok, Vadim; Nelson, Donna J. "Alkene Selenenylation: A Comprehensive Analysis of Relative Reactivities, Stereochemistry and Asymmetric Induction, and Their Comparisons with Sulfenylation".Beilstein J. Org. Chem. 2011, 7, 744-758.
- Nelson, Donna J.; Li, Ruibo; Brammer Christopher N. "Substituent Effects in Acid-Catalyzed Hydration of Alkenes, Measured Under Consistent Reaction Conditions". Tetrahedron Lett. 2009, 50, 6454-6456.
- Brammer, Christopher N.; Nelson, Donna J.; Li, Ruibo. "Substituent effects in additions of iodine thiocyanate to alkenes". Tetrahedron Lett. 2007, 48, 3237.
- Nelson, Donna J.; Li, Ruibo; Brammer, C. N. "Correlation of Relative Rates of Chromyl Chloride Oxidation and Chromic Acid Oxidation of Acyclic Alkenes Versus Alkene IPs and HOMOs". J. Phys. Org. Chem. 2004, 17, 1033 - 1038.
- Nelson, Donna J.; Li, Ruibo; Brammer, Christopher. "Correlation of Ionization Potentials or HOMO Energies Versus Relative Reactivities of Cl2, of Br2, and of I2 with Representative Acyclic Alkenes. Comparison with Other Additions to Alkenes". J. Org. Chem. 2001, 66, 2422.
- Nelson, Donna J.; Li, R.; Brammer, C. "The Correlation of Relative Rates of PdCl2 Oxidation of Functionalized Acyclic Alkenes Versus Alkene Ionization Potentials, HOMOs, and LUMOs". J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2001, 123, 1564.
- Nelson, D. J.; Perng, Tamy. "The Use of Relative Magnitudes of Steric Effects to Explore Reactions of Molecular Halogens with Representative Acyclic Alkenes". Proceedings of the Oklahoma Academy of Science. 2000, 80, 141.
- Nelson, Donna J. "Selected Electrophilic Addition Reactions of Representative Acyclic Alkenes". Tetrahedron Lett. 1999, 5823.
- Nelson, Donna J.; Henley, Robert L. "Relative Rates of Permanganate Oxidation of Functionalized Alkenes and the Correlation with the Ionization Potentials of Those Alkenes". Tetrahedron Lett. 1995, 6375.
- Nelson, D. J.; Yao, Z.; Henley, R., Smith; T. "Diimide Reduction of Some Representative Alkenes and the Correlation of Their Relative Rates of Reduction with Their Corresponding IPs". Tetrahedron Lett. 1993, 5835-8.
- Nelson, Donna J.; Cooper, Penny J.; Soundararajan, R. J. "A Simplified Method of Ascertaining Steric Effects in Electrophilic Addition Reactions. A Comparison of Bromination, Oxymercuration, and Hydroboration". Am. Chem. Soc. 1989, 111, 1414-1418.
- Nelson, Donna J.; Soundararajan, R. "Using the Comparison of Steric Versus Electronic Effects to Infer Mechanistic Information in Stepwise Electrophilic Addition Reactions Involving Three-Membered Cyclic Intermediates". Tetrahedron Lett. 1988, 6207-6210.
- Nelson, Donna J.; Cooper, Penny, J.; Coerver, Judy A. "Comparison of the Relative Reaction Rates of Alkenes Toward Hydroboration and Toward Oxymercuration". Tetrahedron Lett. 1987, 943-944.
- Nelson, Donna J.; Brammer, Christopher N. (2011). "Toward Consistent Terminology for Cyclohexane Conformers in Introductory Organic Chemistry". Journal of Chemical Education (American Chemical Society) 88 (3): 292–294. Bibcode:2011JChEd..88..292N. doi:10.1021/ed100172k.
- Nelson, Donna J.; Brammer, Christopher N.; "Toward Consistent Terminology for Cyclohexane Conformers in Introductory Organic Chemistry". J. Chem. Ed. 2011, 88, 292.
- Fox, Marye Anne; Whitesell, James K.; Nelson, Donna J.; Study Guide and Solutions Manual to Accompany Organic Chemistry, Second Edition; Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Inc., Sudbury, MA, 1997.
- Fox, Marye Anne; Whitesell, James K.; Nelson, Donna J.; Study Guide and Solutions Manual to Accompany Core Organic Chemistry; Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Inc. Sudbury, MA, 1997.
- Nelson, Donna J.; Nucleophile / Electrophile Reaction Guide for Organic Chemistry; Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Inc. Sudbury, MA, 1997.
- Nelson, Donna J.;An Organization Device for Visualizing Mechanisms and Regiochemistry Rationales in Electrophilic Aromatic Substitution. Chemical Educator 2001, 6, 142.
- Nelson, Donna J.; EAS-at-a-Glance. W.H. Freeman & Co. New York, NY, 2000.
- Nelson, Donna J.; "The Effect of the Nucleophile/ Electrophile Reaction Guide on the Performance of Undergraduate Organic Chemistry Students"; Chemical Education Journal. 2000, 4, 17.
- Nelson, Donna J.; "Teaching Devices to Make Undergraduate Organic Chemistry Easier". Proceedings of the Oklahoma Academy of Science. 2000, 80, 71.
- Greene, Barbara A.; Dillon, Connie G.; Miller, Raymond B.; Nelson, Donna J.; Brammer, Christopher N.; "Changes in motivation and cognitive engagement across a semester: When the going gets tough, the tough get going"; 2007 American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting, SIG Motivation in Education - Reviewed paper, Chicago, IL. Apr 10, 2007.
- Brammer, Christopher N.; Hallman, Lauren; Nelson, Donna J.; "Survey of teaching resources and responsibilities of organic chemistry professors at "Big 12" research universities"; Chemical Educator; 2007, 12, 1-6.
- Frates, R. A.; Nelson, Donna J.; Friedrich, Craig; Rubowitz, Mark; Collins, Clay; "Formation of Inorganic Precipitates in Microgravity on the STS-40". Proceedings of the Oklahoma Academy of Science. 1996, 76, 75-82.
- Frates, Rodman A.; Nelson, Donna J.; Friedrich, Craig; Rubowitz, Mark; Collins, Clay; EXHIBIT: Formation of Inorganic Precipitates in Microgravity on the Getaway Special STS-40. Oklahoma Air and Space Museum 2001, permanent exhibit.
- Nelson, Donna. "Diversity surveys data". Nelson Diversity Surveys. Retrieved 2013-05-18.
- Donna Nelson (2006-01-06). A National Analysis of Diversity in Science and Engineering Faculties at Research Universities (PDF). University of Oklahoma. Retrieved 2010-10-11.
- "Academic Diversity". Nature (Nature Publishing Group) 447 (7146): 753–754. 2007-06-14. Bibcode:2007Natur.447R.753.. doi:10.1038/447753b. PMID 17568703. Retrieved 2008-03-11.
- Lewin, Tamar (2004-01-15). "Despite Gain in Degrees, Women Lag in Tenure in 2 Main Fields" (reprint). The New York Times. LexisNexis. Archived from the original on September 3, 2006. Retrieved 2010-10-11.
- Rimer, Sara (2005-04-15). "For Women in Sciences, Slow Progress in Academia". The New York Times. Archived from the original on September 3, 2006. Retrieved 2007-06-01.
- Teicher, Stacy (2006-06-29). "The ivory tower gets more flexible". The Christian Science Monitor. Archived from the original on September 3, 2006. Retrieved 2007-06-01.
- Associated Press (2004-01-16). "White Men Dominate Science Posts". CNN. CNN. Archived from the original on September 3, 2006. Retrieved 2007-06-01.
- Cornelia M. Ashby (July 2004). Gender Issues: Women's Participation in the Sciences Has Increased, but Agencies Need to Do More to Ensure Compliance with Title IX (PDF). Government Accountability Office. Retrieved 2007-06-01.
- Donna Nelson (2008-02-06). "Do We Need Julian Today?". NOVA Forgotten Genius. PBS. Retrieved 2008-03-11.
- "Contrasts in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering". Association for Women in Science. Archived from the original on April 19, 2003. Retrieved 2008-03-11.
- Ackerman, McCarton (September 7, 2012). "Chem Prof Advises Breaking Bad on All Things Meth: U of Oklahoma's Donna Nelson is the hit show's consultant on the chemistry of meth-cooking.". TheFix. Retrieved March 5, 2013.
- Hernandez, Christina (April 5, 2011). "'Breaking Bad' adviser on TV's scientific accuracy". SmartPlanet. Retrieved March 5, 2013.
- Flatow, Ira (December 23, 2011). "The Science Behind Breaking Bad". NPR. Retrieved March 5, 2013.
- Nelson, Donna (November 17, 2011). "Breaking Bad Science Advisor Donna Nelson on the Show's Real-Life Science". AMC TV. Retrieved March 5, 2013.
- Beiser, Vince (September 5, 2012). "Maven of Meth: The real-life chemist behind television’s preeminent crystal cook". Pacific Standard. Retrieved March 5, 2013.
- Gross, Terry (September 19, 2011). "'Breaking Bad': Vince Gilligan On Meth And Morals". NPR. Retrieved March 5, 2013.
- Cyriaque, Lamar (July 14, 2012). "We talk to the cast of Breaking Bad about science, swearing, and Saul Goodman". io9. Retrieved March 5, 2013.
- Creghton, Jennifer (October 17, 2011). "Scientist Spotlight: Donna Nelson". The Science and Entertainment Exchange. Retrieved March 5, 2013.
- American Chemical Society websites for Hollywood Chemistry symposium, Mar. 27,2011; "Symposium"; "Press Conference"; "Press Release"
- American Chemical Society websites for Science on the Hollywood Screen, Aug. 28,2011; "Symposium"; "Press Release"; "Press Conference"
- American Chemical Society websites for Empowering Tomorrow's Science Superheroes, Aug., 28, 2011; "Press Release"; "Press Conference"
- Nelson, Donna, "SWCNT Analyses Should be Shaken, Not Stored."   Onstage 24/7 presentation at the Ig Nobel Awards, Cambridge, MA, September 29, 2011.
- Patneaude, Rachel; Nelson, Donna J.; "Native American Strong Body Initiative". Ethnicity and Disease (International Society of Hypertension in Blacks, ISHIB). 2005, 15, Summer;15(3 Suppl 4):S4-77.
- Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame, 2013,
- Nelson, Donna J. "Two-Year Extensions for Special Creativity" NSF Grant Proposal Guide, NSF 02-2, published December 2001
- "Current Topics, Issues, and Events in Diversity". Nelson Diversity Surveys. Diversity in Science Association. Retrieved 2010-10-11.
- Nelson, Donna. "Diversity News and Talks". Diversity in Science Association. Archived from the original on April 26, 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-01.
- Ryssdal, Kai (2004-01-15). "Female chemist from University of Oklahoma will brief Congress on her study of women in academic science". Marketplace (radio program) (Minnesota Public Radio). Archived from the original on September 3, 2006. Retrieved 2007-06-01.
- Nelson, Donna; Ruibo Li, Christopher Brammer (2005-02-04). "Using Correlations to Compare Additions to Alkenes: Homogeneous Hydrogenation by Using Wilkinson's Catalyst" (– Scholar search). Journal of Organic Chemistry (American Chemical Society) 70 (3): 761–767. doi:10.1021/jo048968r. PMID 15675830. Retrieved 2007-06-01.
- Hilary Domush and Leah Webb-Halpern co-interviewers. "Transcript of Chemical Heritage Foundation Oral History Interview of Dr. Donna Nelson". Chemical Heritage Foundation. Conducted on 21–22 July 2008. Interview number 482; 2009.
-  "SACNAS Biography Project: Dr. Donna Nelson–Chemist". SACNAS NEWS,2004, Vol. 6, No. 2, p. 8.
-  "In Her Own Words" Progress Magazine JustGarciaHill Website March 1, 2003, No. 2. March 2003-vol-1-no2.