Ian was born in Knoxville, TN in late 1983 and spent his early childhood moving around the eastern seaboard and the south, before finally settling in The Woodlands, a suburb of Houston, TX. Ian fell in love with chemistry when he attended the Oak Ridge Academy of Science and Technology for high school, which led him to a research position in Professor John Margrave's lab at Rice University.

Ian attended college at Columbia University in the City of New York, where he performed undergraduate research with Professor Gerard Parkin, was a teaching assistant for a number of chemistry classes, and was president of the Columbia University Rugby Football Club. During his summers in college, Ian performed research as an NSF-REU fellow at Rice University (with Margrave), Harvard University (with Professor George Whitesides), and the University of Hawaii (with Professor Craig Jensen).

After graduating from Columbia with a B.A. in chemistry in 2006, Ian moved to the west coast to do graduate work with Professor John Bercaw at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, CA. While at Caltech, Ian became an active runner, completing several marathons, and also an avid backpacker and mountaineer. Ian peaked in productivity as a 3rd year grad student, when he climbed Mount Whitney, ran a half marathon and gave group meeting over the course of three days.

Ian completed his Ph.D. in organometallic chemistry with Bercaw in 2011, then moved to the midwest to do a postdoc with Professor Clark Landis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in January 2012. Ian liked the midwest so much that he decided to stay, and started as an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Minnesota in July 2013. He was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 2019.

To view Ian's academic tree, click here.

Recent Awards and Honors:

  • 2019 DOE Early Career Award
  • 2019 ACS Organometallics Distinguished Author Award
  • 2018 University of Minnesota McKnight Land-Grant Professor
  • 2018 Thieme Chemistry Journals Award
  • 2018 ACS Organic Division Academic Young Investigator
  • 2017 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow
  • 2016 NIH Outstanding Investigator Award (MIRA)
  • 2014 ACS-PRF Doctoral New Investigator Award

Ian A Tonks, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Chemistry 

Office: 568A Kolthoff Hall
207 Pleasant St. SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455
email: itonks(at)
phone: 612.624.4705

BA Columbia University (2006) 
PhD California Institute of Technology (2011)
Postdoc University of Wisconsin (2012)

Twitter - Tonks