Timothy Alan Nieman was born on December 31, 1948 in Mount Healthy, Ohio, the son of Orville and Emma Nieman. He was a member of Boy Scout Troop 275 in Mount Healthy, where he earned Life Scout rank and the God and Country Award. After receiving a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Purdue University in 1971 and completing his PhD degree in analytical chemistry at Michigan State University in 1975, Tim joined the analytical chemistry group at the University of Illinois.
Soon after he arrived at Illinois, Tim invented a method - called bipolar pulse conductance - to determine ion concentrations in solution that was much more rapid than was possible by existing potentiometric or amperometric techniques. In this method, two opposite polarity voltage steps are applied to the sample, and the differences in conductance as a result of the pulses are measured. Tim also developed microcomputer controlled electrochemical instrumentation and applied it as a rapid scanning detector for separation and identification of various mixtures. The response time was again extremely fast, and limited only by the time it took to mix the solutions.
Tim's best known research was in the area of chemiluminescence and his methods to monitor the concentration of various biomolecules without requiring a light source to stimulate photochemical processes. He went on to interface this method with various chromatographic systems in order to combine the sensitivity of the luminescence with the selectivity of the separation method. The result was high speed, reliable, and inexpensive instrumentation for measuring such common biological molecules as creatinine, glucose, sucrose, uric acid, and oxalic acid.
But Tim's first love was teaching. He was adept both in the classroom and as a mentor to graduate students. He trained 20 PhD students, 9 MS students, and 12 BS students in his career. Tim lived to see the completion of the fifth edition of "Principles of Instrumental Analysis," which he wrote with Douglas Skoog and F. J. Holler. He was North American editor of the journal Mikrochimica Acta and a member of First Presbyterian Church of Urbana, having served as a ruling elder, trustee, choir member, senior high school youth group adviser, Sunday school teacher, and Sunday school pianist. Professor Alex Scheeline said "There is a vacuum at Illinois which I suspect will not be filled. As many have observed, Tim Nieman was not in the education business to inflate his ego, build an empire, or gain recognition for himself. He was here so his students would become better scientists and lead more fulfilling lives … and be of service to humanity."
Tim suffered a devastating stroke during a surgical procedure in 1994 to remove a tumor wrapped around a blood vessel in his neck. After nearly two years of rehabilitation, Tim was able to recover some ability to walk and speak, and he heroically returned briefly to teaching. Unfortunately, the cancer returned and this time there was no recourse. Surviving are his wife Sandra Louis, two daughters, and two sisters.
Link to Prof. Alex Scheeline's reminiscences about Prof. Nieman