Dr. Robert J. Gilliard, Jr. is a native of Hartsville, South Carolina. He attended Hartsville High School﹣“Home of the Red Foxes”﹣where he played football, basketball, and participated in track and field. He was also a member of the Key Club, National Beta Club, National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, and was President of the Student Body.
Gilliard obtained his Bachelor of Science in chemistry from Clemson University. During his undergraduate studies he was heavily involved in the university community. Indeed, he was a resident assistant, an assistant to the organic chemistry teaching laboratories, and a residence hall assistant for Clemson Summer Programs. Moreover, he served on the Executive Board of Student Advisors, was a student representative to the College of Engineering & Science, and was secretary and treasurer of the American Chemical Society Student Affiliates Chapter. His research experience and training began in Clemson’s Department of Chemistry working in the laboratory of Prof. Rhett C. Smith. Gilliard’s work in Prof. Smith’s laboratory has been featured in COES IDEAS Magazine and Clemson Profiles. During his free time he could be found bowling in Anderson, South Carolina, working out and training for martial arts in the Fike Recreation Center, or playing billiards and table tennis in the Clemson University Student Union. As a member and President of Clemson’s Collegiate Table Tennis Association he enjoyed competing against colleges on the east coast.
Gilliard earned his doctorate in chemistry from The University of Georgia specializing in the broad field of organometallic chemistry. While living in Athens, he was a member of Chestnut Grove Baptist Church. His research in Prof. Greg Robinson’s laboratory at UGA involved the stabilization of highly reactive organoberyllium complexes. He utilized carbenes to synthesize the first example of a crystallographically characterized compound containing the highly reactive beryllium borohydride [Be(BH4)2] unit. This achievement has been discussed in recent highlight articles and books. Gilliard has received a number of prestigious honors. Notably, he was one of a select group of young American scientists chosen to represent the United States at the 63rd Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau, Germany﹣a global forum that aims to educate, inspire, and connect the world’s best talent.
Currently, Gilliard is a Postdoctoral Research Scientist at ETH Zürich (Zürich, Switzerland) and Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, Ohio). He enjoys working with two outstanding research groups led by Prof. Hansjörg Grützmacher and Prof. John Protasiewicz. Gilliard was awarded UNCF/Merck and Ford Foundation fellowships to prepare a new class of phosphorus-containing molecules which have applications in bioactive and materials chemistry. Recently, in a special Forbes Magazine issue on the brightest young entrepreneurs, breakout talents and change agents, he was featured as one of Forbes 30 under 30 in Science.
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