Hilda Karlsson Roderick Lecture

The inaugural Hilda Karlsson Roderick Lecture took place in the spring of 2017. This annual event funded by the Roderick family (described below) brings an exciting speaker to campus each year with the goal of stimulating interest in science fields, sparking curiosity in younger scientists, offering topics of further exploration, and enriching the current faculty at Berea College. This will take place on Friday, April 5th, 2019. The speaker might be given a handcrafted gift from the Berea College crafts department and/or a small honorarium as fits each individual. The events will be publicized in advance and the general public outside Berea is certainly welcome to participate.

Past Roderick Lecturers

  • 2017 – Robert Crabtree, Yale University (Friday, March 24th)
  • 2018 – George M. Whitesides, Harvard University (Monday, March 26th)
  • 2019 – Geoffrey W. Coates, Cornell University (Friday, April 5th)
  • 2020 – to be determined

Geoff W. Coates

We are excited to announce that our third Roderick Seminar speaker will be Geoff W. Coates from Cornell University. Professor Coates will give a presentation at noon to the organic chemistry II class. Later in the afternoon  the public Roderick Seminar will take place at 4:30PM in Cargill Science Building with refreshments served at 4:00PM in the lobby. Additional information about Professor Coates can be found on his website at the chemistry department of Cornell University.


  • “In Pursuit of the Perfect Plastic” – Abstract: Society depends on polymeric materials more now than at any other time in history. Although synthetic polymers are indispensable in a diverse array of applications, ranging from commodity packaging and structural materials to technologically complex biomedical and electronic devices, their synthesis and disposal pose important environmental challenges. The focus of our research is the development of sustainable routes to polymers that have reduced environmental impact. This lecture will focus on our research to transition from fossil fuels to renewable resources for polymer synthesis, as well as the development of polymeric materials designed to bring positive benefits to the environment.
  • Organic II Discussion


Prof. Coates is the Tisch University Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Cornell University. His teaching and research interests involve science at the interface of organic, inorganic, and materials chemistry. The broader impacts of his research include benign polymers and chemical synthesis, the utilization of renewable resources, and materials safe and economical energy storage and conversion.

Additional information may be found at his group website.

George M Whitesides

George M Whitesides

We are excited to announce that our second Roderick Seminar speaker will be George M. Whitesides from Harvard University. Professor Whitesides will give a presentation at noon to the organic chemistry II class where he discusses Reengineering Chemistry. Later in the afternoon  the public Roderick Seminar will be entitled Soft Robotics. The talk will begin at 4:00PM in Science Hall, Room 106 with refreshments served at 3:30PM in the lobby. Additional information about Professor Whitesides can be found on his website at the chemistry department of Harvard University.


  • “Reengineering Chemistry” Abstract:  Chemistry is facing a set of very important challenges, and ones that are very different than those it has addressed in the past.  This talk will outline some of the reason that the agenda of the field is changing, and how it may have to  change in response.
  • “Soft Robotics” Abstract: “Robotics” is a field with broad interest: it combines mechanical engineering, information science, and animal physiology with manufacturing, workforce development, economics, and other areas. The most highly developed classes of robots have been build based on conceptual models provided by the body-plans of animals with skeletons (humans, horses), and have made it possible to carry out tasks that humans and animals could not (for a variety of reasons).  We are interested in robots based a different, simpler class of organisms (invertebrates: starfish, worms, octopi). Because these organisms, and the robots having designs stimulated by them, have no skeletons, they provide enormous opportunities in materials and polymer science, rather than primarily in mechanical engineering. This seminar will outline one approach to soft robots, and suggest problems and opportunities in this new field.


George M. Whitesides grew up in Louisville, KY before going to prep school in Andover, Massachusetts. From there he went on to an undergraduate degree at Harvard University in 1960 and then a doctorate at the California Institute of Technology in 1964. Professor Whitesides worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1963 until 1982 when he returned to Harvard ever since. In 2004 he was appointed as one of only a handful of Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professors at Harvard. George Whitesides has won many of the major awards across many fields of chemistry and is one of the most highly cited researchers in the world. He has a brief biography on his Wikipedia page for further information.

Robert Crabtree

We are excited to announce that our inaugural Roderick Seminar speaker will be Robert Crabtree from Yale University. Professor Crabtree will discuss innovations in inorganic chemistry from his 40 year career from 1977 to the present. The title of the talk will be Catalysts for Energy Applications. The talk will begin at 4:30PM in Science Hall, Room 106 with refreshments served at 4:00PM in the lobby. Additional information about Professor Crabtree can be found on his website at the chemistry department of Yale University.


Cannizzaro ReactionCatalysis is an essential aspect of alternative energy research. Water splitting to O2 and H2 is needed for artificial photosynthesis, CH hydroxylation relates to functionalization of organic compounds and dehydrogenative oxidation extracts H2 from biomass products such as glycerol. An example of the latter is glycerol conversion to lactic acid, a much higher value product than the starting material.


At Yale since 1977, Bob Crabtree is now Whitehead Professor. He has been ACS and RSC organometallic chemistry awardee, Baylor medalist, Mond lecturer, Kosolapoff awardee, Stauffer Lecturer, has chaired the ACS Inorganic Division and is the author of an organometallic textbook. Early work on catalytic alkane C-H activation and functionalization was followed by work on H2 complexes, dihydrogen bonding, and catalysis for green and energy chemistry. He is a Fellow of the ACS and of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

History of the Roderick Lecture Series

The lecture series is being funded by Hilda Karlsson Roderick who was born in 1927 to immigrant parents living a warm, but simple farm life in Southern Maryland. Grateful to have found Berea, she graduated with honors in 1948 and went on to receive a Masters in biochemistry from Oklahoma A&M College and a teaching credential from University of California Berkeley. She taught high school and also worked as a research assistant at the University. She later joined the MDI Biological Laboratory as a technician to earn supplemental college tuition money for her children.

She met and married Thomas H. Roderick and moved to Bar Harbor, ME. Thomas was a research scientist and professor at the Jackson Laboratory. They frequently hosted scientific guests in their home. They had a family, including a son and daughter, Margarethe and George, and kept busy with school and many activities, including scouting for both. Hilda became involved with scouting at the national and international levels of Girl Scouts, and was named an “Honorary World Member.”

Berea always rings a happy note for Hilda and her family, as they visited campus, as well as met friends and faculty. Thomas always joined Hilda for her class reunions. Hilda served Berea by coordinating “Berea Day in Maine” for 30 years, an annual gathering of Berea Alumni, and received the President’s “Alumni Loyalty Award” at her 60th Berea Reunion.