UC Faculty Awards 2020: Anna Gudmundsdottir

College of Arts and Sciences professor honored as a Distinguished Research Professor

Chemistry has taken Anna Gudmundsdottir around the world as a global expert in her field of photochemistry.

Hailing from Iceland, the UC College of Arts and Sciences professor studied in British Columbia and completed a fellowship in Michigan before coming to Ohio.

“I’ve been making my way south ever since I was born. It’s easier to do that if you’re born in Reykjavik,” she jokes.

Gudmundsdottir studies molecules called nitrenes, applying laser light to crystals to create surprising reactions. The insights she uncovers could improve car air bags, among many other applications.

Anna Gudmundsdottir speaks at a whiteboard.

UC professor Anna Gudmundsdottir, a native of Iceland, teaches her chemistry students. Gudmundsdottir to date has provided research mentoring to six postdoctoral students and 34 graduate students. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

Gudmundsdottir is in high demand as a speaker and travels extensively to share her research. As a Fulbright Scholar, she and her family lived in Japan for a year. Likewise, Gudmundsdottir’s work with her research partners has attracted considerable interest through grant awards totaling more than $6 million over her career.

Anna Gudmundsdottir

Anna Gudmundsdottir. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

“Dr. Gudmundsdottir has established herself as a national and international expert,” Dean Valerio Ferme wrote in nominating her for the 2020 STEMM Award.

Ferme said he was especially impressed that Gudmundsdottir’s many publications include papers co-written with undergraduate and high school students.

“I hope the committee finds this as remarkable an achievement as I do. We often speak about recruiting students to STEMM disciplines and exposing them to experiential learning in their fields. However, few are the ones who actually do this,” Ferme said.

Gudmundsdottir said teamwork is a big part of her work ethic.

“Chemistry is a collaborative field. I really like collaborating with my students and watching them collaborate with researchers around the world,” she said.

Research benefits from having people with different skill sets and life experiences approach a problem, she said.

“I like the diversity in our field. It’s a mini-society, people from different backgrounds trying to learn from each other,” she said. “We’ve sent students to Germany, Canada, Abu Dhabi. Many had never been outside the country before. It’s fun for me because I see them grow into professionals.”

Meanwhile, Gudmundsdottir’s travel itinerary is as busy as ever. This year she will return to Japan to discuss curious new findings in her research on nitrenes.

When it comes to travel, her children take after her. Her oldest son is studying computer science now in Iceland.

Gudmundsdottir said she places a high value on family. Despite her busy schedule, she makes time to check in over Skype each day back home in Iceland with her brother Oscar, who has Down Syndrome.

“I think about being in grad school in Canada when it was so expensive to phone home. You’d call once a month and take a deep breath and blurt out everything you wanted to say. Now it doesn’t cost you a penny.”

Featured pic at top: UC chemistry professor Anna Gudmundsdottir was named a distinguished research professor in STEMM. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

Anna Gudmundsdottir in her office.

UC professor Anna Gudmundsdottir, a Fulbright Scholar who served a NATO postdoctoral fellowship, is studying molecules called nitrenes with students in her chemistry lab. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

UC Faculty Awards

UC is saluting the 16 winners of our 2020 All-University Faculty Awards in a three-part series in UC News weekly through April 22. Beginning April 23, all winners will also be showcased on the Faculty Awards website.

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