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Volume 87 Issue 24 | p. 5 | News of The Week
Issue Date: June 15, 2009

Zare Is 2010 Priestley Medalist

ACS award goes to Stanford chemist for lifetime of scientific achievement and service to chemistry
Department: ACS News, Science & Technology | Collection: Special Issue
News Channels: Analytical SCENE
Keywords: American Chemical Society, Priestley Medal, Richard Zare
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Zare and postdoc Jianyang Zhang peer into the vacuum chamber housing an experiment.
Credit: L. A. Cicero/Stanford News Service
8724NOTW-zare
 
Zare and postdoc Jianyang Zhang peer into the vacuum chamber housing an experiment.
Credit: L. A. Cicero/Stanford News Service
An argon-ion laser beam (light green) excites fluorescence (yellow streak) in a glass cell containing iodine vapor. The fluorescence is dispersed by a diffraction grating.
Credit: Courtesy of Richard Zare
8724NOTW-argonlaser
 
An argon-ion laser beam (light green) excites fluorescence (yellow streak) in a glass cell containing iodine vapor. The fluorescence is dispersed by a diffraction grating.
Credit: Courtesy of Richard Zare

Richard N. Zare, 69, the Marguerite Blake Wilbur Professor in Natural Science and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor at Stanford University, will receive the 2010 Priestley Medal. The annual award, which is the highest honor bestowed by the American Chemical Society, recognizes distinguished service to the field of chemistry.

"I'm very delighted to receive this honor," Zare says, "but there are so many other deserving people, too."

"Dick Zare is a superb choice for the Priestley Medal," says Dudley R. Herschbach, a Nobel Laureate and emeritus chemistry professor at Harvard University. "His research is wonderfully innovative, immensely fruitful, and of amazing scope. His teaching, mentoring, and public service are likewise extraordinary. Moreover, Zare is a delightfully ebullient evangelical speaker."

"There is hardly anyone else, worldwide, who can lay claim to having contributed more to the field of physical chemistry, who has excelled in teaching, and who has been so active in service to the field of chemistry," says Gerald J. Diebold, a professor of chemistry at Brown University.

Zare is "a true chemistry hero, as he has devoted countless hours to the promotion of the field to young and old alike," says Harry B. Gray, a professor of chemistry at Caltech. "He is a dynamo whose passion for chemistry seemingly knows no limits."

Among Zare's many scientific contributions, his work in laser spectroscopy stands out in particular. He introduced laser-induced fluorescence as a method for studying reaction dynamics and as a sensitive detection method for analytical chemistry. For example, laser-induced fluorescence was the detection technique used to sequence the human genome, Zare points out.

Zare has also been active in public service. He was a member of the National Science Board (the governing body of NSF) from 1992 to 1998 and its chairman from 1996 to 1998. "He was enormously effective in that demanding role, taking on important thorny problems and working in partnership with the director to ensure that NSF avoided political meddling and was able to move forward with good budgets and programs to support the nation's best research ideas and the best people to pursue them," says Neal Lane, who was NSF director when Zare was on the board. "We are all indebted to him for his contributions to science and the nation."

Zare received a bachelor's degree in chemistry and physics from Harvard in 1961 and a Ph.D. in chemical physics from the same institution in 1964, working with Herschbach. He became an assistant professor of chemistry at MIT in 1965, and he moved to the University of Colorado, Boulder, in 1966, where he held joint appointments in the departments of chemistry and of physics and astrophysics. In 1969, he became a full professor at Columbia University. He has been a chemistry professor at Stanford since 1977.

Among many awards Zare has received throughout his career are the Fresenius Award from Phi Lambda Upsilon, the Welch Award in Chemistry, and the Wolf Foundation Prize in Chemistry. He is a member of ACS, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Association for Women in Science.

 
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