Baylor professor earns prestigious fellowship to work with top researchers in Germany

Dr. Caleb Martin, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, has become the university's first Humboldt Research Fellow. Photo Courtesy of Baylor University

By Caleb Wheeler | Staff Writer

Baylor has been held in high regard for its research for many years, and the legacy is continuing with Dr. Caleb Martin. The associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry has become the university’s first Humboldt Research Fellow for his research into and application of the boron element.

The Humboldt Research Fellowship is a part of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, which has existed since 1953 to produce developments in science. The program creates international connections among researchers so that they can experience new ways to approach their fields of expertise.

“It’s a program funded by the German government that brings researchers to Germany and provide them with accommodations like a network,” Martin said. “I have to spend a minimum of six months there, and I can spend up to 18 months.”

Dr. John Wood, department chair of chemistry and biochemistry and Welch distinguished professor, said there is “a good history” of boron research at Baylor. He compared Martin’s research to that of Dr. Gordon Stone — the former Welch chair. While Martin’s research is of a different nature than that of Stone, Wood said the level of knowledge and research is similar.

“[Martin’s] research is … highly innovative, and he’s defining many new areas in chemistry,” Wood said. “And I think that he’s also proven to be a superb mentor to his graduate and undergraduate students.”

Martin will be making his first trip from May to June. While there, he will have the special privilege of going to a meeting in Berlin with the president of Germany and other research fellows. The fellowship allows for up to three visits within a three-year period.

“I’ll be at the host institution, which is Boron Institute for Sustainable Catalysis,” Martin said. “There’s a building there that houses the whole institute, so it’s sort of a concentration of boron chemists.”

Martin will be collaborating with researchers on various projects, but his work is focused on introducing boron into molecules that could be used to make sensors. The fellowship makes Martin eligible to return to Germany and apply for other opportunities, as well as to host Humboldt postdocs at Baylor.

“There’s well over 100 foreign researchers there,” Martin said. “There’s not really anything else in the world that has that concentration of boron chemists and expertise, so I’ll be able to learn some new areas and techniques, as well as interacting and building up a network and connections … that will be lifelong.”

Martin said it is always interesting to get new perspectives from different countries about what research they emphasize and how they conduct it.

“I’m looking forward to an opportunity that I couldn’t really turn down: being at an institution with top facilities, top expertise and technical staff,” Martin said.

Wood said Martin being recognized as a Humboldt Research Fellow is indicative of high-quality research and ability.

“He’s had a great amount of success not only in his research but also with his students,” Wood said. “I think that those are both really noteworthy things.”

Caleb Wheeler is a freshman University Scholar from Tulsa, Oklahoma. My concentrations are in journalism and professional writing with a minor in legal reasoning. In my first year with the Lariat I am excited to experience what it is like to work for a professional publication and further my writing abilities. After graduation I hope to attend Baylor Law School.