Donald Showalter

2006 Helen M. Free Award Winner

Donald Showalter, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, received the 2006 Helen M. Free Award for Public Outreach. Dr. Showalter is active in promoting the use of chemical demonstrations at all levels of science education. He has been involved, as a solo presenter and co-presenter with retired UWSP Professor Marvin Lang, in more than 700 chemical demonstration programs and workshops.

The goal of these events is to excite and educate students, teachers, and the general public about chemistry. Showalter has presented programs at Epcot Center, Disneyland, the U.S. Congress, the Smithsonian Museum of American History, the Great Lake Science Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, the Kamehameha Schools in Hawaii, Oxford University in England, and Helsinki University in Finland. Between 1987 and 1989, Showalter was involved in the making of a 26-episode PBS series, "The World of Chemistry."

He served as the demonstrator opposite the show host, Nobel Prize winner Roald Hoffman. While Hoffman introduced ideas and concepts, Showalter provided demonstrations and other visual representations to help students better understand the information. The series, still an integral part of chemistry curricula across the country, has earned Showalter the moniker of "Doctor Wow." He still receives weekly e-mails from chemistry classes and teachers asking for autographed photos or letters from "Doctor Wow" himself.

Showalter holds a Ph. D. in inorganic chemistry and radiochemistry from the University of Kentucky and a B. S. from Eastern Kentucky University with emphases in chemistry and math. He spent a year as a post-doctoral fellow at the Oregon State University Radiation Center.

Showalter is the recipient of multiple teaching awards. In 1984 he was selected to be the first director of the UWSP Center for Faculty Development and he has frequently served as a teaching consultant for university faculty. He has served as a faculty mentor to residence hall students. With previous Helen M. Free Award winner C. Marvin Lang, Showalter plans to document more of the demonstrations the pair has developed as well as to create new programs to educate and intrigue audiences. "I want to try to keep the interest for science in people of all ages. The idea is to keep it fun," says Dr. Showalter.