Faculty Snapshot: Eric Watson, S.J.

Meet faculty member Eric Watson, S.J., who teaches chemistry in the College of Science and Engineering

Written by Maura Beth Pagano, '12
Photography by Chris Joseph Taylor
June 5, 2011

What’s your specialty within the general field of chemistry?

Professor Watson: Synthetic organometallic chemistry. There are two main divisions in chemistry: inorganic chemistry, which concerns metals, and organic chemistry, which deals with carbon molecules. Synthetic organometallic chemistry is a hybrid of these two divisions.

What can you tell me about the research you are working on or have worked on?

Watson: As part of my research at Seattle University this past summer, two undergraduate chemistry students and I synthesized an interesting new compound possessing two iron atoms linked by a carbon ring. My postdoctoral research [at the University of Washington] involved the oxidation of methane to methanol. This project is called a “holy grail” of organometallic chemistry, because its realization would be of great scientific and economic value. While we found some interesting results, the controlled oxidation of methane chemistry remains a goal of many scientists.

What brought you to Seattle University and the College of Science and Engineering?

Watson: In June 2009, I was ordained to the priesthood in Spokane. As a Jesuit of the Oregon Province, I was asked to apply to both Jesuit universities in the Northwest—Seattle University and Gonzaga University. After interviewing with both schools, the Provincial of the Oregon Jesuits discerned that I could best serve at Seattle University.

What’s most rewarding about your line of work?

Watson: As a priest and a chemist, I have two rewarding lines of work at Seattle University. My most frequent sacramental ministry at Seattle University involves presiding at Masses at the Chapel of St. Ignatius. I find this service to the university community profoundly moving and meaningful. As a chemistry teacher, I love the opportunity to interact with students and to help them understand chemistry better—and, hopefully, to enjoy it as well. Moreover, my opportunity to combine religious and scientific ministries in my daily work enriches and informs both lines of work.

What is your favorite pastime?

Watson: This year, my favorite pastime is walking around Seattle. I usually begin without a destination in mind and always discover some new and interesting area or neighborhood.

What is one “fun fact” your students might be surprised to know about you?

Watson: Before becoming a Jesuit, I lived in Sitka, Alaska, for three years and lived aboard a 29-foot sailboat.

Eric Watson, S.J., teaches synthetic organometallic chemistry at the College of Science and Engineering