Jeffrey Kovac ’70, Ethical Chemist

Life, by its very nature, constantly surprises, but certain aspects of life would seem to be under our personal control: what to study, how to apply that knowledge. As a young chemistry professor at U. Tennessee, Jeffrey Kovac, thought he knew where his professional path was headed: a “conventional research agenda” in the laboratory, and a teaching schedule devoted to the staples of the chemistry curriculum.

Jeff’s path took an unexpected turn in the late 1980s, however, when he began developing a new course for his undergraduate students. “I was teaching the capstone course in chemistry that was supposed to look at the field from a broader perspective,” he said. “There were stories of scientific misconduct in the press, so I decided to introduce ethics into the course.”

The larger story of how Jeff turned these stories into his 1993 book, The Ethical Chemist, and the three decades of surprises he found along this unexpected path, can be found in An Ethical Chemist by Grant Currin (The Key Reporter, 25 Oct 2017).

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