The secret lives of our profs

Aron Lorber

Stefan Debbert, assistant professor of chemistry, explains that his passion for chemistry began at a young age. He admits, “In the third grade, I memorized the first few rows of the periodic table.” However, lest anyone think of him as a “chemical prodigy,” he quickly and self-deprecatingly adds, “I pretty much stayed at that level.”
Originally from Fond du Lac, Wis. — “Fondy” to those who know it well — Debbert first encountered Lawrence University in high school, when he was recruited to join the university wrestling team, his “first and only athletic recruitment — for anything.”
He continued to pursue his interest in chemistry at the University of Minnesota and Cornell University studying organic synthesis. He joined the Lawrence University chemistry faculty earlier this year.
The enrollment in his first class was a grueling two students. Last term, though, he began to inherit the responsibilities of teaching and adjusting to the much larger organic chemistry courses.
Debbert was also involved in discussions surrounding the creation of the new biochemistry major that will be offered beginning next year. He describes the process as being “pretty smooth,” as he saw an inspiring “commonality of purpose across divisional lines.”
Debbert’s current research involves synthesizing small-molecule receptors and ligands with well-defined three-dimensional shapes. Such research has a number of biological, environmental and pharmaceutical applications.
He also hopes to bring his background in theoretical computational chemistry to the department’s offerings. His research into supramolecular synthesis will continue with two students through the summer.
Outside of Science Hall, Debbert spends most of his time with his family, helping to raise his two young children. When he wants to avoid another reading of Dr. Seuss, he also plays soccer with other members of the faculty and community.
His passion for AC/DC leads him to jokingly refer to himself as the “AC/DC of chemistry,” though for the record, he is bit too tall, too not Australian, and not enough classic rock to pull it off. As a warning to those currently enrolled in organic chemistry: He does plan to play “Back in Black” before the next exam.

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