New award in Chemistry given by local entrepreneur

Kevin Theisen, a relative newcomer to Richmond, has established a generous new award in the Department of Chemistry to recognize students with an interest in software programming. As a successful software developer and entrepreneur, Kevin knows the potential for new ideas and applications in this specialized field and is paying it forward to the next generation of chemistry majors.

Kevin began his pursuit of chemistry in the undergraduate program at Rutgers University in his home state of New Jersey where his work in nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy spawned an idea to develop ChemDoodle, a chemical structure environment and publishing software program now in use by thousands of institutions in over 90 countries. Kevin’s company, iChemLabs, now distributes a wide range of scientific graphics and informatics software solutions with a focus on the highest quality standards that are both affordable and sustainable. The wide application of this software is seen in the spectrum of its users: universities, government agencies, high schools, and businesses large and small.

After a move to Richmond in 2016, Kevin immediately began building relationships in the local academic community and quickly identified VCU as the “most accomplished academic institution in the area.” As he was introduced to the department through Scott Gronert, Ph.D., a professor in the department and Associate Dean of Research for the College of Humanities and Sciences and Samy El-Shall, Ph.D., the chair of the chemistry department, he was inspired to develop a more formal relationship with talented VCU students via an annual award, something he has also established at his alma mater, Rutgers. Knowing firsthand the roles that encouragement and opportunity play in building life-changing career paths, Kevin established the iChemLabs award that will annually recognize an undergraduate chemistry student showing interest in software development with a $1,000 prize. Kevin believes deeply in the power of both recognition and investment. “These skills are worth investing in. I feel responsible to expose the next generation of students to this type of opportunity and to encourage programming in chemistry.”

Though the industry of successful chemical software companies is small—“you can count them on one hand,” he says—Kevin is certain that the future is rich with opportunity. Students and collaborations with university programs are essential in expanding the necessary knowledge, creativity and application. “It is important to cultivate interest in what I do and it is my responsibility to have a good environment in the industry, cooperative and competitive.” Kevin’s investment in chemistry students at VCU does just that, ensuring visibility for this growing industry and rewarding students for pursuing new applications in the field.

Written by Caitlin Hanbury