Martin J. O'Donnell received his B.S. from the University of Iowa in 1968, and his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1973. He then earned a Postdoctoral Fellow from the Universite Catholique de Louvian in Belgium from 1973 to 1975. O'Donnell is the Chancellor's Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis.
O'Donnell's research has focused exclusively on organic chemistry. His lab has developed methods for the solution-phase preparation of optically active unnatural α-amino acids by carbon-carbon bond-forming reactions. He has been especially active in the research of the chemistry that utilizes the benzophenone imines of glycine esters, known as "O'Donnell Schiff bases." This has been used extensively by both academic and industrial scientists for the preparation of new and unusual amino acids and peptidomimetics on both small and industrial scale. Since 1995, O'Donnell has collaborated with Professor Bill Scott (also a member of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at IUPUI) for the preparation of unnatural α-amino acids by solid-phase synthesis, as well as on the development and implementation of a research-based experience for the classroom called "Distributed Drug Discovery (D3).
O'Donnell was the recipient of the Loren T. Jones Award in 1981, the Science Research Award from Purdue in 1983, and he was a Research Fellow in Japan for NCU in 1992. From Indiana University, he was awarded the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1995, the President's Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1996 and was elected a member of FACET (Faculty Colloquium on Excellence in Teaching) in 1998. O'Donnell also has served as the Closing Plenary Lecture at the European Peptide Symposium in France in 2000, and as the Plenary Lecturer at the Wageningen Symposium on Diversity in Organic Chemistry in the Netherlands in 2002.