- 2007: University of Kansas Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemistry
- First woman to chair the University’s Chemistry Department
- Project Director for the State of Kansas National Science Foundation Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research
- Primary Investigator for Department of Energy grant for environmental research on innovative ways to clean up toxic wastes
- 2006: National Science Foundation Creativity Award
- 2002: Higuchi Endowment Kansas Dolph Simons Sr. Award for Research Achievement
Kristin (Mertes) Bowman-James, University of Kansas Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemistry, was the first woman to chair the University’s Chemistry Department. She conducts research on the structure-reactivity relationships of transition metal complexes. Her team’s latest research has delved into the relatively new field of anion coordination chemistry. She is also the Project Director for the State of Kansas National Science Foundation Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, which is extremely active in environmental research endeavors.
Professor Bowman-James earned her BS and PhD degrees in Chemistry from Temple University in 1968 and 1974, and in 2004 was inducted into the Temple University Gallery of Success. She was a Visiting Research Associate for one year at Ohio State University before coming to Kansas as an Assistant Professor in 1975. She was the only faculty female in the Chemistry Department at that time.
She was named the Chemistry Department Chair in 1995, the first woman to do so, and stayed in that post until 2001. In 2003, she was one of the seven female Chemistry Department members who made up the “largest percentage of female Chemistry faculty of the top 50 Chemistry departments.” Four of these women were hired under her tenure as Chair. The most recent addition at the time of the award, Heather Desaire, noted, “The difference between KU and other places is that other places would be happy if women happened to apply, but KU actually sought out and identified talented women in the field and encouraged them to apply.” Dr. Bowman-James commented in one article regarding the honor, “There still might be a glass ceiling, but we’ve definitely put a dent in it.”
She is the author of many publications and papers on her research. In the summer of 1978, she received the Argonne Faculty Participation Award, and she has worked with the 1987 Nobel Prize Winners. In 1996, she was the Primary Investigator for a research grant of $775,000 from the Department of Energy for environmental research on innovative ways to clean up toxic wastes. Of course, her world is not only about the lab; she can be found on weekends drag-racing at Heartland Park in Topeka.
Some of the many awards she has been honored with include the Iota Sigma Pi Award for Professional Excellence, the 2002 $10,000 Higuchi Endowment Kansas Dolph Simons Sr. Award for Research Achievement, the Midwest Award for Research in Chemistry from the St. Louis region of the American Chemical Society, and the 2006 National Science Foundation Creativity Award. Upon her reception of the University Distinguished Professorship in 2007, Joseph Heppert, Chair of the Chemistry Department, commented, "Professor Bowman-James is an exemplary, internationally recognized scientist, whose creativity and extensive scholarly contributions to macrocyclic chemistry, molecular recognition and anion coordination chemistry have resulted in this noteworthy recognition by the university… Kristin is an outstanding scientist, mentor and friend, and our department is thrilled that her accomplishments have been acknowledged."