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Oklahoma State University
OSU Research

Office of the Vice President for Research

Honor of a Lifetime

Emeritus professor Devlin wins special recognition for his ‘enduring achievements’

Dr. Paul Devlin

The award of a lifetime was presented during the Research Week reception to Dr. Paul Devlin, professor emeritus of physical chemistry at Oklahoma State University. Vice President for Research Kenneth Sewell presented him with a “Special Recognition for Enduring Achievements” from the OSU Division of Research. Devlin joined OSU in 1961.

“He has led a research laboratory with more than 56 years of continuous external funding. He retired from his full-time faculty role 22 years ago, but still maintains an NSF (National Science Foundation) funded laboratory,” Sewell said. “Dr. Devlin is a stalwart of the OSU research community.”

 Devlin got his first grant in 1962. His early studies were with charge transfer organic systems, molten salts and the vapors over molten salts. Beginning in the 1980s his group studied many aspects of solid water systems, often as nanoparticles. This led to an offer to the meteorology community of a molecular model as to how collisions of rising small ice particles with falling larger ones can produce the charge separation necessary for lightning.

The honor — and the standing ovation that accompanied it — surprised Devlin.  He also said he owes a debt to a series of dedicated graduate students over the years.

“This has been inspirational,” he said. “I’m used to very quiet surroundings and nobody clamoring. So, it’s really unusual and gratifying to be recognized. You can’t ask for much more than that.”

Dr. Devlin and VP Sewell
Dr. Paul Devlin and VP for Research Kenneth Sewell

In retirement, Devlin said he has found freedom.

“It provided the opportunity to do exactly what I wanted to do,” he said. “As a teacher, there were meetings, evaluations, thoughts of promotions. There were so many distractions. All of a sudden, I had no distractions. I could do exactly what I wanted to do.” He now works on his research at his own pace. He has more time to work with graduate and college students and even some high school students.

“It enabled me to work with students who weren’t necessarily ready because I had the time to spend with them,” he said. “You couldn’t draw it up any better. I didn’t realize that when I first retired.”