Dwight Sweigart P’05, professor of chemistry, died Monday in the Philip Hulitar Inpatient Center in Providence after a two-year battle with throat cancer. He was 67 years old.
“He was a tremendous scientist, he was an excellent teacher, he was an unbelievable advisor and mentor and a truly good friend to all the people in the department,” said Matthew Zimmt, professor of chemistry and chair of the chemistry department.
Sweigart began working at the University in 1980 and taught CHEM 0330: “Equilibrium, Rate and Structure,” as well as more advanced courses in inorganic chemistry, through last fall.
Sweigart is remembered as an incredible mentor. “What he did for his students who worked in his lab – both undergraduates and graduate students – was truly amazing,” Zimmt said.
This past July, the Chemistry Department and the company Strem Chemicals co-sponsored a symposium in Sweigart’s honor. Students from all over the world attended to present their work and to thank him, Zimmt said.
“I look back at my own interactions with Dwight as a model for how to mentor my students,” Jason D’Acchioli ScM’02 wrote in the symposium program.
“He always showed a keen interest in our personal lives,” said Alex MacIntosh GS, adding that Sweigart invited his mentees to his home on Saturdays and frequently took them golfing.
Sweigart told his students to call him “boss,” which is how Professor of Chemistry Shouheng Sun PhD’97, who studied under Sweigart, still refers to him, MacIntosh said.
Zimmt said Sweigart shaped his students’ lives “by giving them these opportunities, by demanding a lot and making them realize they had to demand a lot of themselves.”
Sweigart received his PhD from Northwestern University in 1971 and held appointments at Oxford University, the University of Wales and Swarthmore College before coming to Brown. He also served as vice chair of the chemistry department from 1999 to 2002. Sweigart published over 180 papers during his career.
When Sweigart first arrived at the University, he focused on understanding the structure and reactivity of polymorphins, a class of naturally occurring molecules. He also worked in the field of electrochemistry, investigating how electrons could be added or removed from molecules to enhance reactivity without expending great amounts of energy. Sweigart’s research also involved catalysis and nanotechnology, Zimmt said.
Within the last decade, much of Sweigart’s work focused on a subfield of inorganic chemistry – organometallics. Specifically, his work has involved the creation of organometallic coordination networks, which can be used to store important molecules like hydrogen.Since 1997, he served as an associate editor for the scientific journal Organometallics.
There will be a memorial service for Sweigart Thursday, Nov. 8 at 4:30 p.m. in Manning Chapel.
- With additional reporting by Sona Mkrttchian