UB professor Michael Detty awarded Jacob F. Schoellkopf Medal

Detty proves his students are his greatest achievement


Michael Detty came to UB to focus on treating cancer. His research ranges from bone marrow transplants to changing how a mammogram works.

Detty, a UB chemistry professor, was awarded the Jacob F. Schoellkopf Medal on Sept. 20. The medal recognized his research in chemistry and is the oldest award given by the Western New York area. But aside from his academic work, his compassion for his students and his dedication to help them succeed is what has made him a favorite at UB.

Detty has been teaching at UB since February 1995. He grew up in Springfield, Ohio and graduated from Bowling Green State University where he completed his undergraduate studies. He received his Ph.D. at Ohio State University and then worked at the Eastman Kodak Company for 17 years.

He came to UB interested in treating cancer and eradicating viruses or bacteria from blood supply.

“I would like to see at least one patient benefit from what we’ve done,” Detty said.

His work has since shifted to focus more on bone marrow transplants and Leukemia. His goal is to use T-cell and stem cell related treatments that utilize photodynamic methods. Detty is also working on technology that can change how a mammogram works.

“I am currently interested in medical diagnostics that can redefine what a mammogram does by non-invasively determining if there is a tumor and if it is a genetic form of breast cancer or not,” Detty said. “Since breast cancer affects both men and women, this is very important.”

But Detty considers his students to be his biggest accomplishments.

One of his former students became an assistant professor at Yale. Another former student of his became the dean of Arts and Sciences at St. Bonaventure University.

“I am surrounded by people who want to learn, students and scholars who are very good at what they do,” Detty said.

Detty’s former and current students describe him as dedicated and understanding.

“Mike Detty is the type of teacher that gets you excited about the subject. Chemistry wasn't something he taught – it was a part of him and that dedication and love infused into his students,” said Dave Hilmey, a former student of Detty’s and the dean of Arts and Sciences at St. Bonaventure University.

Sherry Chemler, a professor of chemistry, said she admires Detty as a colleague and a person.

“Detty has always been popular with the students. His group is a tight-knit bunch that work as a team to accomplish their research goals,” Chemler said. “Detty has worked with undergraduates, graduate students and postdocs and their careers have benefitted tremendously from his mentorship,” Chelmer said.

Margaret Goodman, a former student of Detty’s and the chair of Chemistry at D’Youville College, said the best part about being a student under Detty was his “compassion and understanding.”

“He absolutely understood that my family still always came first for me and trusted that I would get my work done regardless of my crazy schedule,” Goodman said.

Corey Damon, a fourth-year graduate student of chemistry said Detty motivates his students by providing guidance, not answers.

“He provides us with a problem to solve and is always there when we are stuck, but doesn't feed us solutions. By challenging us to solve a problem, we excel as chemists in the lab,” Damon said.

Caitlyn Gatley, a fifth-year Ph.D. in medicinal chemistry, said Detty instilled self-confidence and motivation in his students that went beyond the walls of UB.

“He believed that if the student was interested in what they were doing and always approached projects with a curious mind, they would be successful, not because they would be seeking answers just to check a box, but to satisfy their curiosity,” Gatley said.

Rory Sharon is a Staff Writer and can be reached at news@ubspectrum.com