- Distinguished Professor (2020)
- Bicentennial Medal (2020)
- National Academies (2004)
- American Association for the Advancement of Science
- Titled Professor (2001)
- Harry G. Day Chair in Chemistry
David R. Williams earned his B.S. in chemistry from St. Lawrence University in 1970. Upon completion, he attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for graduate studies under the mentorship of Professor George Büchi and earned his Ph.D. in organic chemistry in 1976. Williams was awarded a National Institutes of Health fellowship for postdoctoral training at Harvard University with Professor E. J. Corey, a Nobel laureate, and subsequently with Professor R. B. Woodward, also a Nobel laureate. Williams joined the Indiana University (IU) faculty in 1980 as an assistant professor of chemistry and was promoted to full professor in 1987. He has since held numerous titles and appointments at the university. In 2001, he was given the additional, honorary title of Harry G. Day Chair in Chemistry.
Williams's research interests lie in the development of synthesis methodology for efficient strategies to advance molecular complexity. The Williams laboratories have made significant applications of these broadly adopted strategies with elegant applications toward biologically active natural products. Williams has authored 170 publications, and more than 140 graduate students and postdoctoral researchers have completed advanced studies in his labs.
He has been recognized for his teaching and research as a recipient of the Sloan Foundation Fellowship, the Edward Leete Award of the American Chemical Society in 2005, and the ACS Ernest Guenther Award in the Chemistry of Natural Products in 2018. At IU, he has received the Tracy M. Sonneborn Award in 2002, the Distinguished Faculty Research Lecturer Award in 2007, the Teaching Excellence Recognition Award in 2000, and the Trustees Teaching Award in 2014. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.
Williams received the IU Bicentennial Medal in September 2020 in recognition of his distinguished contributions to Indiana University.