Wilson Lecture

Dr. Leland Wilson

About the Leland Wilson Lectureship

Professor Leland Wilson, as first department head and professor in the Department of Chemistry for more than 20 years, left a legacy of professionalism and integrity that the faculty and staff in the department continue to sustain.

The Leland Wilson Lecture Series was initiated in 1997 by colleagues, family, and former students to honor Professor Wilson's many contributions to the Department of Chemistry and the University of Northern Iowa community.

In July 2007, Dr. Mary Sue and Ken Coleman made a generous donation of $100,000 to fully endow this lectureship and ensure its continual funding. Dr. Mary Sue Coleman is Professor Wilson's daughter and is currently serving as the president of the Association of American Universities.

Dr. Raychelle Burks

2023 Lecture

Wilson Lecture – “All My Favorite Teachers are UNDEAD!” with Dr. Raychelle Burks.  The lecture will be held in Lantz Auditorium in the McCollum Science Hall at UNI on Thursday, October 12, at 7:30 pm.

Dr. Burks received her BS in Chemistry from UNI, MS in Forensic Science from Nebraska Wesleyan, and PhD from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. She describes herself as a chemical detective.  Dr. Burks and her team design new ways to detect a variety of drugs, explosives, and chemical weapons. 

Dr. Burks was also a regular on Science Channel’s Outrageous Acts of Science and is a popular public speaker.  She was recently honored as one of 120 Women in STEM (2022) that included a 3D printed statue of her on the national mall.

Close-up of Dr. Leland Wilson in a chemistry lab, wearing a white lab coat and black glasses, looking down at his work.

About Leland Wilson

Professor Leland Wilson, a native of Kentucky, was a high school science teacher in Kentucky and Florida prior to joining the UNI faculty in 1955. During his 24 years at UNI, Wilson taught physical science and chemistry, becoming an expert in a number of newly emerging instrumental techniques, including nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometry. He was the first department head of the newly formed Department of Chemistry in 1968, and served in that capacity until 1975. He retired as professor of chemistry in 1979, and passed away in the summer of 1993 at the age of 79. With an infectious smile and an easy-going style, Wilson was able to motivate even the most reluctant students to expect more of themselves.


If you would like to contribute to the Leland Wilson Scholarship Fund, please contact:

Dr. Bill Harwood, Head
Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry
University of Northern Iowa
Cedar Falls IA 50614-0423
Telephone: 319-273-2052
E-mail: bill.harwood@uni.edu 


  • Patrick Fier, principal scientist at Merck


  • Dr. Greg Smith, Otto N. Frenzel III Senior Conservation Scientist at the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields


  • Dr. Eric Scerri, Professor, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, University of California, Los Angeles

  • Dr. Jennifer SternSpace Scientist, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
  • Dr. Auriel A. Willette, Assistant Professor of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Psychology, and Biomedical Sciences, Iowa State University
  • Dr. Annette Richards, Professor of Music and University Organist, Cornell University,
    Dr. Catherine Oertel, Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Oberlin College
  • Dr. Kimryn Rathmell, Director of the Division of Hematology and Oncology and Professor of Medicine, Vanderbilt University
  • Dr. Shawn Domagal-Goldman, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
  • Dr. Paul Kelteraward-winning teacher and researcher in Chemistry Education
  • Dr. Melanie SanfordArthur F. Thurnau Professor of Chemistry, University of Michigan
  • Dr. Harry B. Gray, Arnold O. Beckman Professor of Chemistry and Founding Director of the Beckman Institute, California Institute of Technology
  • Dr. R. Graham Cooks, Henry B. Hass Distinguished Professor of Analytical Chemistry, Purdue University
  • Dr. John Warner, President and Chief Technology Officer, Warner/Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry
  • Dr. Richard Zare, Professor of Chemistry, Stanford University
  • Dr. Geri Richmond, Professor of Chemistry, University of Oregon
  • Dr. Paul G. Wenthold, Associate Professor, Purdue University
  • Dr. Charles D. Huss, Staff Emergency Department Physician, Mercy Hospital, Iowa City
  • Dr. Nancy Wilson Ashbach, M.D., M.B.A., Professor of Health Policy, University of Denver, Family Physician
  • Dr. John Talley, Microbia, Inc
  • Dr. Becky Lewis, E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co. Inc.
  • Dr. M. Dale Hawley, Professor of Chemistry, Kansas State University
  • Dr. Steven M. Heilmann, Corporate Scientist, 3M Corporate Research
  • Dr. Mark J. Kurth, Professor of Chemistry, University of California, Davis
  • Dr. Robert D. Koob, President, University of Northern Iowa
  • Dr. Mary Sue Coleman, President, University of Iowa