Better Living Through Chemistry

“Ohio State was a special experience for me,“ alumnus Andrew Dahlem said. “The diversity of people and amazing opportunities were formative for committing to a career in science.”

Dahlem, who received his BS in biology in 1982, and is now Vice President and Chief Operations Officer of Eli Lilly Research Laboratories, has been looking for ways to show his gratitude ever since.

Undergrads at Lilly Labs.

Undergraduate students with CLSE Director Caroline Breitenberger in front of Eli Lilly headquarters in Indianapolis.

Dahlem serves on the Corporate Advancement Council for Ohio State’s College of Pharmacy and the School of Veterinary Medicine. Both he and Lilly support Ohio State’s Denman Undergraduate Research Forum. Dahlem has served as a judge multiple times, something he really enjoys. “These are amazing students; their work is at the graduate student level.”

Although Dahlem received a PhD in toxicology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Veterinary College, his ties to Ohio State run deep. Several family members are alumni, including his wife, and his father and brother. But his loyalty also stems from a teacher who inspired him.

“A professor can make an impact that lasts a very long time,” Dahlem said. “It’s a wonderful thing having somebody care on a personal level. For me, that person was John Harder, a zoology professor.” (Dahlem and his wife, Laura made a gift to name a laboratory in Jennings Hall in Harder’s honor in 2008.)

Then Dahlem came up with the idea to give Ohio State students the opportunity to see how pharmaceutical research is done.

"It’s an opportunity for us as well,” Dahlem said. “We never know where the next set of great ideas might be coming from. Bright minds see outcomes that don’t yet exist."

Researcher works in Lilly Labs.

In Lilly research labs, the hunt for effective, new drugs never ends.

This summer, 15 students, selected by faculty advisors and accompanied by Center for Life Sciences Education Director Caroline Breitenberger, made the trip to Indianapolis where Lilly scientists opened some normally locked doors—and some eyes.

Students saw first hand the process of drug discovery and development in leading edge labs, met and interacted with Lilly scientists, and got a real sense of what Dahlem, a research scientist himself, has described as “a combination of luck, inspiration, and long, hard work in the lab.”

The day ended with a “Buckeye Reception” in the students’ honor, attended by some of the more than 175 Ohio State alums who work at Lilly.  

Michael Hoover, chemistry, said, “I gained exposure to the technical aspects of industrial chemistry and connected with alumni of our university doing what I hope to be doing one day—working on a project that is both interesting and meaningful.”