Thorp Leaving Morehead Center to Head Chemistry Department

Holden Thorp ’86, who has served as director of UNC’s Morehead Planetarium and Science Center since 2001, has been named chairman of the department of chemistry.

Thorp also will be named Kenan professor, an endowed faculty position awarded to outstanding scholars and teachers. Both appointments are effective July 1. The department of chemistry is part of the College of Arts and Sciences.

“This is a great opportunity for the College of Arts and Sciences, the University and the Morehead Center,” said Robert Shelton, provost and executive vice chancellor at UNC. “Our nationally ranked department of chemistry will gain an outstanding scholar and teacher with Holden Thorp at the helm. Holden’s vision and expertise have led the Morehead to new heights as an innovator in science education.

“His promotion gives the Morehead Center an opportunity to continue moving forward by seeking a national leader in science outreach and interactive educational programs.”

After Thorp earned his bachelor of science degree, with highest honors, in chemistry from UNC, he received his doctorate from the California Institute of Technology. He came to UNC in 1993 as assistant professor of chemistry and is now professor of chemistry.

A native of Fayetteville, Thorp has earned recognition as a professor and as a researcher, including the Tanner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, the David and Lucile Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering, and the Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship.

Fortune Small Business named Thorp one of its “Top Innovators of 2001” for his development of electronic DNA chips that have received nine patents and are currently in commercial production.

As director of the Morehead Center, Thorp expanded the original emphasis of the planetarium to encompass science education in all of the disciplines offered by the University. He initiated partnerships involving Nobel Prize-winner James Watson and Pulitzer Prize-winner Edward O. Wilson to develop films that explore genetic research and biodiversity. He also established momentum for the Morehead Center’s first major renovation since its construction in 1947.

Thorp replaces James W. Jorgenson, who ends his five-year term as chairman of the department of chemistry on June 30. Jorgenson, W.R. Kenan Jr. professor, will continue to teach and conduct research in chemistry.

Robert Gotwals, who has served as the Morehead Center’s associate director and as director of science initiatives, also will leave the Morehead Center to return to the Shodor Educational Foundation, a nonprofit institution in Durham providing informal science education in computational science.

Jeff Hill, the Morehead Center’s marketing and business ventures director, will be acting director of the Morehead Center during the search for a new director.

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