CINF Member Profile

Martin Walker
by Donna T. Wrublewski




Who are you?

I’m a chemist who grew up in northern England and worked in the chemical industry. In 1992 I moved to the US, and since receiving my PhD from Brandeis University in 1998, I’ve worked in higher education. 

What do you do? (Institution, position, job description/duties)

I’m Professor of Chemistry at the State University of New York (SUNY) College at Potsdam. I teach organic chemistry, at the introductory level (lecture & labs) and advanced.  I also teach an online course on sustainability, and I chair our campus’s distance learning committee.

Why are you in the chemical information field? (Your background, what led you to chemical information, etc.)

My interest began when I worked in industry, where I did the literature searches for the R&D department, both via paper stacks of Chemical Abstracts, and using STN messenger.  My PhD adviser (James B. Hendrickson) was one of the pioneers of synthesis design by computer, and although I worked in the “wet lab” I always took a strong interest in the cheminformatics work of the group, and I attended the CINF national symposium at UVM in 1994 where I first got to experience the World Wide Web!

In 2004 I began working on Wikipedia as a hobby, and I soon realized the potential of the site for dissemination of chemical information. As well as writing articles, I also enjoyed working behind the scenes on issues like standards, article validation and assessment – similar to what we see in chemical information. I’ve tried to promote Wikipedia in the chemistry community, explaining how it works and to encourage contributions. I’ve also tried to foster good relationships between Wikipedia and other information providers, such as the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS), and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).

I was also involved in setting up the RSC’s Learn Chemistry wiki, which sought to bring the power of ChemSpider into an education website – something I really enjoyed.  I’ve also begun to contribute to a joint CINF and CHAS project on using cheminformatics methods for hazard evaluation in the lab. For the future, I’d like to find ways to use open collaborative tools in chemistry and education, and for us to develop novel ways to share and disseminate scientific data.

What makes CINF valuable to you? (Include anything relevant, but especially any committees or projects in which you are involved.)

I’m not a librarian or a cheminformatics specialist, yet I’ve always felt more at home in CINF than in any other division. I usually feel like an enthusiastic amateur among professionals, but I think I can also contribute to the division by giving the perspective of the working chemist or the chemistry educator.  At the same time, I take away lessons from CINF sessions that I can apply in my teaching.  I’m finding the CINF/CHAS hazard evaluation project to be fun, and it has a lot of potential; in May I will be co-presenting on the project at the SLA DCHE/CINF conference.  In 2011 I organized a symposium to honor James B. Hendrickson, where it was good to bring together synthetic organic chemists with chemical information specialists.  I’m also a co-organizer for a session at this year’s ACS meeting in Boston on “Wikipedia and Chemistry: Collaborations in Science and Education.”