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Remembering Susan Odom

Susan became a fast friend of mine during my time at UK through events like Game of Thrones watch parties, regular trivia nights, and quiet evenings hanging out with her cats. She'll be sorely missed. Whether traveling the world to share her research, fighting for the rights of her female colleagues, designing a new light-emitting diode overnight, planning an elaborate New Year's party for a handful of close friends, caring for her diverse brood of felines, or calling late at night to ask random questions about fitness or genetics, Susan brought passion and exuberance to everything she did. Let her be an example to the rest of us. Requiesce in pace, friend.
Taylor Kessinger
Former Staff
I remember meeting Susan early in 2011 during her wonderful interview to join UK in July. During her ten years at UK, she was an outstanding faculty member, and was greatly appreciated in the department of chemistry. Susan always tried to help everyone around her. She was kind and engaged in exciting conversations due to her diverse interests, and at the same time always remembered to ask how my kids and family were doing. Susan’s initiative to improve the department was noteworthy and encouraged everyone to think about a better future. I feel so honored to have known Susan as a colleague and friend, she will be greatly missed.
Marcelo Guzman
I first met Susan when I was an undergraduate, right when she first started as a professor. I took her organic chemistry class, and ultimately joined her group. I learned to appreciate and think about science from her. I pursued my graduate degree in chemistry in large part because of her influence on me. It is no exaggeration to say that I would not be where I am today if it were not for her. Such a tragic loss and I will miss her deeply.
Bryan Ingoglia
Class of 2014
I met Susan in May 2018 as part of the UK faculty teaching at Jilin University in China. We became addicted, with Lennon Michalski, to a small Chinese Foot Massage clinic across the street from the hotel. All the masseuses were blind; we learned there was a school in Changchun where they taught the blind this method, given their sensibility to touch. Susan went almost every day. We discovered a Chinese barbecue for dinners, and we bonded with others over noodles and dumplings s at the hotel breakfast. Susan and I came home together on the long flights from Beijing to Lexington. She had upgraded to Business Class and I was in tourist, but the seat next to her was empty. I kept going up there to hang out with her, but the flight attendant kept shooing me back to my seat. Susan would wave me back when the coast was clear, and the flight attendant would throw me out again. Susan got a kick out of flouting the rules, after all, they couldn’t exactly throw us off the plane.
Francie Chassen-Lopez
I met Susan when she first came to UK, as an undergraduate student. Early on she worked in my lab on a biochemical project and was fantastic. But alas, introductory chemistry caught her attention and her life-long passion was found. Susan was fun and I’ll never forget how even after leaving my lab group, she would adorn her former lab friends’ benches with fun figurines looking down on their experiments with a smile. RIP dear Susan.
Joe Chappell
I met Susan when she did her undergraduate work in my husband’s lab. He said of her “she is a good chemist.” That may seem a modest compliment, but there could be no higher praise from him. From her years as a brilliant undergraduate to her work as a faculty member, I watched with pride as she matured and grew into an accomplished professional and advocate for women and girls in the sciences.

Susan was a loving and caring friend. You could see it in her love for her cats, my cats, the cats of other friends, even cats she didn’t know. She would send directives to send pictures of my beloved Maine Coons, all of whom she helped me find and adopt. The picture was invariably met with the response “beauties!” and then “he needs a bath!” As with her work – excellence in all things.

It is so very hard to say goodbye to my ferocious, passionate, brilliant, and kind friend. I will miss you, Susan, and will always love you dearly and treasure the time I had with you.
Sara Zeigler
Faculty/Dean at EKU
I feel fortunate to have been in Susan's department.
I am grateful for her courage to speak up, her high standards, and her irrepressible energy that kept us all on our toes. Whether or not we agreed with her, Susan Odom made us think. As the race to the bottom hijacks so many of our institutions, it is crucial that individuals recall us to excellence. We all need to retain this lesson from Susan. Some things should not be tolerated. At the same time, Susan was generous with her time and energy, lifting spirits and providing astute professional guidance to strengthen her colleagues and students. Susan's record of productivity is a testimony to her scientific strength, but only the tip of the iceberg, in that her energies also contributed to the productivity of others around her. Although Prof. Odom is gone, we can retain her spirit every day - and should.
Anne-Frances Miller
Even though we interacted for a very short time during one summer in China while teaching, I felt that Susan was an unusual person. I had heard that she was an exceptional teacher and students loved her. I also heard that Susan found many ways to make Chemistry interesting, including infusing luminescent chemicals into paint, so students would paint pictures that would look different during the day and at night. Peace!
Rita Basuray
With a heavy heart, I'm writing this tribute for her remembering the impact she had on my life both academically and personally. Dr Odom was my PhD advisor and mentor. She was the sole reason I chose UK for my graduate studies. She started mentoring and helping me since I reached out to her from Sri Lanka following her visit to my undergraduate institution. She had a wonderful soul that was ready to help me even though she barely knew me when I first contacted her. She always stood out for us as the group members and it was a great strength to know that she will be there for us. Her quality of trying to make us perfect in everything we do has made us better in many aspects in our careers as professionals. It’s hard for us to think that we won't get any more emails or texts from her. My heart grows heavier each time I look at my inbox or the calendar. Dr Odom, we already miss you and I am forever grateful for everything you did for me and that gratitude will never fade. RIP…
Anton Perera
Dr. Odom was a role model for women in research, she strived for excellence, approached her research with ethics and integrity, and worked fervently to train the next generation of chemists. Her research spirit will live on through her trainees, publications and through countless others who she touched in research. We are so honored to have benefited from her research during her time at UK.
Lisa Cassis
Susan and I arrived at UK the same year, in 2011, and met at new faculty orientation. Although an odd pairing—a poet and a chemist--we became fast friends. We'd get together for Korean food, for sushi at off-the-beaten path restaurants, for wine on her porch, and for Faculty Women’s Sanity Club events. Recently, at the farmer's market, she led me around to every stand trying to find the farmer who grew the delicious grapes she'd bought the previous year. The heirloom tomato farmer knew her by name, and they chatted about her cats. The line got longer behind us, but she didn't notice—she was finding out the name of every tomato she was buying. We planned to one day team teach a course on chemistry and poetry. I wasn’t sure what that would be. She reassured me it would be great. I believed her. I will try to live the rest of my life as Susan did—with a fierce desire to learn, always with a sense of adventure and wonder.
Julia Johnson
Dr. Odom was an excellent person who embraced the department and the community like a family. I have mostly seen her during departmental seminars where she would be presenting an invited speaker with a big enthusiasm which sets the mode of the attendees and makes the event joyful. What a tragic loss! Tough to believe that she won't be around when we have seminars back again!
Md Sohel Rana
Susan was passionate about supporting women in academia, and she was an active member of the Kentucky ACE Women's Network leadership board. She recently helped coordinate a highly successful session for our spring leadership program on leading through change. We are devastated by this loss, but we will do our best to honor the life and legacy of Susan by continuing our work to elevate women in higher education.
Katie Cardarelli
I waited for long months to come and see you in person, to do fruitful research together as we said when you chose me for the postdoc position. Few days ago you sent me "I am looking forward to your arrival!" and I was cheering that finally it is in few days that I will start...
I am totally shocked... I will come to the very place YOU made my way to reach it ... But when I arrive, you'll not be there but maybe in a better place ....
I will always be proud that I am there because of you ... And I will try my best to make you proud wherever you are.... I will never forget you Susan ...
Hussein Hijazi
I first met Prof. Susan Odom during my interview at UK and she left an amazing impression - her enthusiasm for research, her vision and motivation for where the department was going, her kindness, the way she spoke her mind, and even her willingness to walk me to dinner on the freezing cold December evening of my interview. From that day on Susan was a great friend and colleague. Susan will be missed by many and for so many reasons. As for me, I'll greatly miss her motivation to change things for the better, her willingness to speak her mind, our interesting and often unpredictable conversations, her presence at, and organization of, our Material's Monday gatherings, and her company at lunches, dinners, and conferences.
Ken Graham
Susan had an amazing personality steeped in kindness and care for others. I recall her reaching out to me when I first joined the faculty at UK with materials and directions for setting up my office, lab, and general operations of a new assistant professor. She is truly one of the finest human beings I have met, hence a great loss. Susan will be truly missed, but offers a fresh inspiration to continue her legacy of love, service, community, hard work, and exceptional science.
Samuel Awuah
My first memory of Susan was when she was working in Dr. John Anthony’s lab. What a wonderful person to work with. Always a smile on her face & full of enthusiasm in her research. Later, when she became an associate professor in the chemistry department the same, Always a smile on her face & full of enthusiasm in her research. Just recently she invited me & any of my glassblowing colleagues to participate in a zoom Seminar on How Glass Changed the World, presented by Dr. Seth Rasmussen, it was a wonderful Seminar & much appreciated! I contacted her later & thanked her & mentioned if Dr. Rasmussen would be willing to share his paper with the glassblower’s society. The response was & I quote, I'm glad you enjoyed it, Jeff! He seems very generous and I bet he will share his paper.
Always like Susan, willing to go the extra mile in whatever she did.
The university, Chemistry department & the world has lost a great asset!

God speed to you Susan, you will be greatly missed!
Jeff Babbitt UK/ Glassblowing Shop
I first met Susan when I was interim Associate Dean of Research in the College of Arts & Sciences. She was a new Assistant Professor, just getting started in her research career. I knew she would be a "keeper" for UK. What a loss. More recently, after she heard that I was going on sabbatical in Brisbane Australia for the spring semester 2020, Susan told me I had to visit Lady Elliot Island, a eco-tourist nature sanctuary on the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. She said it was the best trip she ever took her whole life, and I so glad she shared that with me. She will be missed.
Michael Bardo
She was a pillar, both scientifically and socially, of our "Materials Community" at UK. I will really miss her.
Joe Brill
Dr. Odom was the first chemistry professor at UK that I truly connected with. I remember sitting down in her office hours the first week of class and was beyond nervous about starting the material. She took the time to just talk to me and by doing that she began to empower me in class I genuinely expected to fail. A few days ago, I received my highest ever chemistry exam score in her class and I completely dedicate that to her. She taught me how to learn and to be resilient. Talking about her precious cats, her battery research, and her time spent in Illinois will always be something I will remember and forever cherish. She was the first professor at UK that I would have called one of my mentors. Unfortunately, I was never given the chance to truly thank her or explain this to her. With that being said, I hope to continue to use all the life lessons she taught me and to remain resilient no matter what. She will forever remain cherished and will never be forgotten.
Jamie Henning
Susan and I were fortunate enough to both be interested in teaching organic chemistry. Working closely with Susan for four years we became each other's motivator throughout the semester and friends. She was an exceptional chemist with a passion that one can only admire. She was always sending me cool science experiments to do with my 4-year-old boys to keep them entertained. I am not sure that she truly knew how much that meant to me. Susan had a kind heart but knew how to get her voice heard which was a trait that was so inspirational about her. Honoring her contribution to CHE 232 here at UK will be a goal of mine in future semesters. As my friend and my colleague, she will be dearly missed.
Ashley Steelman
It was impossible to miss Susan’s brilliance, creativity, energy, drive, curiosity, and kindness. I want to talk about her generosity. Not many people, especially people as busy as Susan was, take the time to be generous. But she was – always wanting to share the best with others. When she found an amazing restaurant, or a beautiful spot in the city, she wanted to take you there. When she identified the best “professional” shoes, you had to have a pair! If you mentioned you liked peonies, she would bring you some from her yard. I always thought it was paradoxical that someone so confident and able to speak her mind would be so aware of helping others who were quiet. When she got a new computer for work, she made sure I was given one too. When a colleague needed an office and she was on sabbatical, she offered hers. If someone was in need of anything she was able to share, she gave it. Her time, attention, insights, and care – she gave freely and selflessly.
Phoebe Glazer
I remember being a graduate student, chatting with Susan during her interview at UK. She, at the time, had been working on self-healing materials, a topic which I thought was so interesting I would later do a seminar on for our CHE 776 class. I remember her passing around a small vial of these particles, which was the professional version of show and tell, but really no one else we had interviewed had put that kind of effort in. That’s the kind of person she was. Always willing to go the extra mile if that meant a greater return on her investment. She was unafraid to speak her mind, and always willing to do what it took to make our program better. Susan was inspiring, entertaining, and uncompromising. She was the embodiment of hard work and a true Kentucky success story. Her passing, with no uncertainty, leaves the sky a little darker. I believe we are all a little bit better for having known her.
Justin Mobly
Class of