Gary Juneau (young)

Then...

Gary Juneau today

...and now

 

 Gary Juneau

BS UNO ’70;  PhD LSU ‘77
Owner-Operator, NMR Analysis and Consulting, Decatur, IL 

Gary grew up in New Orleans where he attended Cor Jesu (now Brother Martin) High School.  He attended LSU New Orleans (now UNO) from whence he received his BS in Chemistry in 1970.  Looking back, this is where Gary first became interested in NMR, although he concedes, “I didn’t know much about it.”  As an undergraduate, he helped support himself by working as a waiter at the Roosevelt Hotel, where his father was the banquet manager.  He was drafted into the army two weeks after graduation.  The Vietnam War was coming to a close by then, so he was posted to Nurnberg, Germany.  He described this assignment as a “great duty” that enabled him to see Europe.

Upon return to the USA, and New Orleans, Gary performed assorted spectrophotometric analyses as a technician in the laboratory of Dr Gerald Berenson at LSU Medical School on Tulane Avenue.  Of that position, Gary says, “the state didn’t pay much and I wanted a more challenging position, so I applied to graduate school.”  He entered the PhD program at LSU in the Fall of 1974.  Throughout his graduate research, he was focused on NMR.  He started out in the Bhacca Group, performing structure elucidation of alkaloids.  He transferred to the Fischer Group where he studied terpenoid natural products, specifically sesquiterpene lactones.

Reflecting on his time in the Department, Gary says, “I enjoyed working for Dr Fischer very much … I remember our baseball league.”  Of his former graduate student, Klaus Fischer says, “Gary was a hard-working and independent graduate researcher and a good and helpful group citizen.”  When asked to elaborate on the baseball league, Professor Emeritus Fischer confessed that, growing up in Germany, he had learned to play “Schlagball,” a game in which the players run the bases in a clockwise manner.  In the 1970s, the Department of Chemistry had a very competitive baseball team.  As he stood on the sidelines on the Parade Ground, cheering the team on, Fischer was encouraged by George Sexton (team coach and Chemistry coordinator of instrumentation) to join in.  Fischer hit the ball and ran, instinctively, to third base.  He says, “People were rolling on the ground, they were laughing so hard.”  It was his first and last baseball game, but he understands why Juneau has a smile on his face as he remembers that game. 

Back to Gary … following graduation in May 1974, he served as a postdoc at the Mississippi State Chemical Laboratory in Starkville, MS, where he was part of a project that aimed to “save Mirex for use in control of fire ants” for about a year.  Next stop was the Research Institute in New Iberia, LA, where he worked in a GC lab that was part of a toxicology program.  Dr Juneau’s first permanent appointment was with Olin Corp, starting in 1980.  He worked in their NMR laboratory, first in New Haven and later in Cheshire, CT.  During that era, Olin had a serious interest in polyurethanes and specialty chemicals.  In 1991, Gary left Olin and jointed Tate and Lyle in Decatur, Illinois;  a few years earlier, Tate and Lyle had acquired A. E. Staley.  The NMR theme continued, but Gary’s work was now focused on carbohydrates.  In 1994, he participated in a short business course.  Looking back, he says, “of course, we learn a lot by experience.”

In 1996, Gary was laid off by Staley/T&L.  He was almost 50 and did not relish the prospect of looking for another job.  He was successful in convincing Tate & Lyle’s research group to sell him their NMR equipment.  This was the auspicious beginning of Gary’s own business, NMR Analysis and Consulting, based in Decatur, IL.  Of this brave move, he says “it was a struggle at first, but I soon had a large enough clientele to earn a living.”  In the company’s heyday, they ran 250-300 samples per month and he employed three people to whom he offered medical insurance and retirement benefits. 

In 2008, following tough economic times, NMR Analysis and Consulting contracted.  They still have the original 9.4 Tesla magnet from Staley, although it has been upgraded to a Tecmag Apollo system.  Juneau does his own routine maintenance, with help on complex electronics from Tecmag.  Current clients include Beckman, FAR Chemical, Solvay, Vantage, Zotos, Cargil, Ingredin, Hartelega (Kuala Lumpar) … and Tate & Lyle!  To help with routine acquisition of data, he has two part-time employees who are typically students from nearby Millikan University.  Current LSU graduate student, Peter Piers, was one of those lucky students a few years ago.

In addition to supplying NMR data, Gary does interpretation and consulting.  He enjoys running the business and interacting with people in many different areas of the chemical industry.  When asked how long he plans to be at the helm of his one-man business, he says, “I joke about continuing until the county coroner says I might stop.”

Profile contributed by Carol Taylor