Dr. Dan Downey ('75)
Professor of Chemistry
Dan Downey knew what he wanted when he returned to his alma mater to teach — the opportunity to champion the value of undergraduate research in the education of students in science and other disciplines. "JMU was the best move I have ever made," he affirms proudly when he speaks about that career move in 1985. An avid outdoorsman, Dan saw firsthand the environmental degradation that was occurring in once pristine mountains and valleys, and he became active in stream cleanup efforts. He devised the revolutionary solution of liming stream water to mitigate the harmful effects of acid rain, a method that has now been used in more than a dozen streams in Virginia and in other states as well; and his students have been on hand at every juncture, assisting in the field and lab research. Dan has been an advocate for students in another arena as well. He was instrumental in bringing the National Science Foundation's Research Experiences for Undergraduates program to Madison. Since 1990, REU has provided JMU students with many opportunities to participate in meaningful ways in ongoing research. Even though Dan is a champion of undergraduate research, he remains a committed teacher at heart. "Teaching is the primary interaction between professors and students, and I believe it is imperative to make that experience as unique and interesting as possible." And Dan's students readily attest that he does just that.
"I often jokingly refer to my research students as my 'chemical' sons and daughters; and after graduation, I try to maintain contact with as many as possible. Some have gone on to achieve Ph.D.s themselves and others work as teachers, dentists, physicians, lab bench chemists or stay-at-home moms. Whatever they have done I am proud of their accomplishments and, professionally, that is what is most important to me."