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2024 Cope and Cope Scholar Award winners

Recipients are recognized for excellence in organic chemistry

by Nina Notman, special to C&EN
January 19, 2024 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 102, Issue 2


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The following vignettes highlight the recipients of the 2024 Arthur C. Cope Award and the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Awards, presented by the American Chemical Society in recognition of excellence in organic chemistry. The quotes were provided as written statements and have been edited for length and clarity. These award recipients will be honored at a ceremony at ACS Fall 2024, which will take place Aug. 18–22 in Denver.

Arthur C. Cope Award:

William L. Jorgensen

William L. Jorgensen.
Credit: American Chemical Society
William L. Jorgensen

Sponsor: Endowed fund established by Arthur C. Cope

Citation: For pioneering computational studies of organic and biomolecular systems in solution, including the development and application of free-energy methods for drug discovery

Current position: Sterling Professor of Chemistry, Yale University

Education: AB, chemistry, Princeton University; PhD, chemical physics, Harvard University

Jorgensen on the most rewarding part of his job: “It is the combination of advancing science and assisting coworkers to acquire skills and achieve their career goals.”

What Jorgensen’s colleagues say: “Breaking away from traditional gas-phase quantum mechanical investigations, Bill has pioneered the modeling of problems relating to organic chemistry in solution by featuring molecular recognition processes as well as reaction simulations.”—J. Fraser Stoddart, Northwestern University and University of Hong Kong

Arthur C. Cope Scholar Awards

Sponsor: Endowed fund established by Arthur C. Cope

Michelle Arkin

Image of Michelle Arkin.
Credit: Courtesy of Michelle Arkin
Michelle Arkin

Citation: For pioneering the discovery of potent modulators for drug targets considered undruggable, such as protein-protein interactions and novel allosteric sites

Current position: Professor of pharmaceutical chemistry and chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of California, San Francisco

Education: BA, chemistry, Bryn Mawr College; PhD, chemistry, California Institute of Technology

Arkin’s message for her younger self: “It is ‘Why not you?’ Younger me talked myself out of taking risks. When I was interested in art conservation science, I let someone tell me it was too competitive. I also held back when I thought people were too cool to be my friend. My career turned out better than I could have hoped, but I still have to remind myself that risk won’t kill me and might lead to great friendships and opportunities.”

What Arkin’s colleagues say: “Michelle is an outstanding chemical biologist, mentor, entrepreneur, and community contributor at both the local and international levels. She has pioneered drug discovery for challenging targets, and her insights and technologies are now routinely utilized.”—James A. Wells, University of California, San Francisco

Philip E. Dawson

Image of Philip E. Dawson.
Credit: Courtesy of Philip E. Dawson
Philip E. Dawson

Citation: For pioneering and continuous contributions to native chemical ligation in protein synthesis and the discovery of catenane protein-backbone topologies

Current position: Professor of chemistry and dean of graduate and postdoctoral studies, Scripps Research

Education: AB, chemistry, Washington University in St. Louis; PhD, macromolecular and cellular structure and chemistry, Scripps Research

Dawson on the most rewarding part of his job: “Encouraging students to dig deep to understand an unexpected experimental result. Many of our advances have benefited from an element of serendipity, and pursuing these puzzles often leads to important insights and also provides them excellent training for future success.”

What Dawson’s colleagues say: “Phil’s research combines continuous creativity, meticulous methodology, and exceptional experimentation. Its impact is worldwide in peptide and protein science.”—Julius Rebek, Scripps Research

Dennis G. Hall

Image of Dennis G. Hall.
Credit: Courtesy of Dennis G. Hall
Dennis G. Hall

Citation: For influential studies on the fundamental properties and reactivity of organoboronic acid derivatives and on the multiple applications of these derivatives in catalysis, stereocontrolled synthesis, and chemical biology

Current position: Professor of chemistry, University of Alberta

Education: BSc, chemistry, and PhD, organic chemistry, University of Sherbrooke

Hall on the most rewarding part of his job: “Great results are less frequent than failures, but they more than make up for it, and it’s very rewarding to witness the student’s excitement at a breakthrough. One morning, I found a chiral [high-performance liquid] chromatogram displaying a 99% [enantiomeric excess (ee)] reaction posted to my office door. The graduate student who placarded my door could only get around 50% ee prior to this latest attempt. Moments like that make me eager to return to my office every morning.”

What Hall’s colleagues say: “Dennis is a world expert on boron chemistry, in all its breadth. This includes boron in methodology, medicinal chemistry, synthesis, and materials science. His fundamental research has been behind the development of several boron-based drug candidates.”—Michel R. Gagné, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Ohyun Kwon

Image of Ohyun Kwon.
Credit: Courtesy of Ohyun Kwon
Ohyun Kwon

Citation: For shaping the field of phosphine catalysis into a major area of research in organocatalysis and for inventing the chemical reactions hydrodealkenylation, oxodealkenylation, and aminodealkenylation

Current position: Professor of chemistry and biochemistry, University of California, Los Angeles

Education: BS, chemistry, and MS, organic chemistry, Seoul National University; PhD, organic chemistry, Columbia University

Kwon on who inspired her to become a scientist: “It was Carl Sagan. I was a voracious reader in grade school, and his bookCosmos was unlike any other and made me think, ‘I want to be a person who thinks the way he does.’”

What Kwon’s colleagues say: “Ohyun is a leader in catalysis through her creative use of phosphines. Her lab has invented powerful and novel transformations, including the recent hydrodealkenylation. And she’s contributed to the synthesis of numerous natural products and medicinal motifs.”—Vy M. Dong, University of California, Irvine

Tristan H. Lambert

Image of Tristan H. Lambert.
Credit: Courtesy of Tristan H. Lambert
Tristan H. Lambert

Citation: For the application of aromatic ions in catalysis, for the development of catalytic carbonyl-olefin metathesis reactions, and for pioneering new methods in electrophotocatalysis

Current position: William T. Miller Professor of Chemistry and department chair, Cornell University

Education: BS, chemistry, University of Wisconsin–Platteville; MS, chemistry, University of California, Berkeley; PhD, chemistry, California Institute of Technology

Lambert’s message to his younger self: “I was a first-generation college student, and prior to graduate school, I had no concept that a career in academics or science was a possibility, let alone a blueprint for how to pursue it. Too many of my decisions were made at random and could have easily led me down much less desirable paths. I would tell my younger self about the world of possibilities in science and how to deliberately work toward those career goals.”

What Lambert’s colleagues say: “Tristan has elected to work on some of our field’s most challenging and interesting problems and has developed innovative solutions to those problems. His work will inspire new directions in organic chemistry, both directly and indirectly, for years to come.”—Geoffrey W. Coates, Cornell University

Thomas Lectka

Image of Thomas Lectka.
Credit: Courtesy of Thomas Lectka
Thomas Lectka

Citation: For pioneering contributions to catalytic reactions, for bedrock descriptions of catalytic mechanisms, and for the creative study of nonnatural products and their close interactions

Current position: Jean and Norman Scowe Professor of Chemistry, Johns Hopkins University

Education: BA, chemistry, Oberlin College; MS and PhD, organic chemistry, Cornell University

Lectka on his most memorable project: “It was probably the synthesis of the C–F–C fluoronium ion. It made a fun story. It elicited a bit of controversy at the start but finished with incontrovertible evidence.”

What Lectka’s colleagues say: “Tom’s research is not only deeply fundamental and mechanistically guided but also geared towards the pragmatic needs of practicing chemists. Thus, his chemistry has been employed by many in both industrial and academic circles, and his mechanistic insights have served as a foundation for many to launch new directions.”—Phil S. Baran, Scripps Research

Mark D. Levin

Image of Mark D. Levin.
Credit: Courtesy of Mark D. Levin
Mark D. Levin

Citation: For developing transformations that enable single-atom skeletal editing of complex medicinally relevant compounds and for demonstrating creative combinations of these methods

Current position: Associate professor of chemistry, University of Chicago

Education: BS, chemistry, University of Rochester; PhD, chemistry, University of California, Berkeley

Levin on his proudest career moment: “It was the first time someone from another institution told me they were using chemistry developed in my lab to make something—not as a springboard for their project but just as a ‘routine’ synthesis. That really felt like a milestone.”

What Levin’s colleagues say: “Levin has built a multidisciplinary research program focused on the development of new synthetic methods that enable single-atom skeletal changes to complex molecules. This program is having and will continue to have an enormous impact on the way organic compounds—including the world-changing molecules of the future—are made.”—Viresh H. Rawal, University of Chicago

Song Lin

Image of Song Lin.
Credit: Courtesy of Song Lin
Song Lin

Citation: For pioneering contributions to organic electrocatalysis with applications in total synthesis, pharmaceutical development, organometallic methodology, and functional materials

Current position: Tisch University Professor, Cornell University

Education: BS, chemistry, Peking University; AM and PhD, organic chemistry, Harvard University

Lin on a proud career moment: “Larry Faulkner came up to me during a seminar I was giving at a National Academy of Sciences workshop and told me that he would like to include some of my lab’s research in the next edition of his classic Electrochemical Methods textbook. One of my career goals was that some of my research would become textbook material one day, and I had a ‘dream come true’ moment during my conversation with Larry.”

What Lin’s colleagues say: “Song has established one of the most exciting, significant, and impactful research programs in the fields of catalysis and organic synthesis, and he is a recognized leader in the recently popularized area of synthetic electrochemistry.”—Abigail Doyle, University of California, Los Angeles

Armido Studer

Image of Armido Studer.
Credit: Courtesy of Armido Studer
Armido Studer

Citation: For outstanding contribution toward the development of novel radical- and nonradical-based methodologies

Current position: Professor of organic chemistry, University of Münster

Education: Diploma, chemistry, and PhD, organic chemistry, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich

Studer on his scientific hero: “It is Emil Fischer. It amazes me how he tackled highly important questions in many different fields, especially considering the analytical tools available to him at that time.”

What Studer’s colleagues say: “Armido is a highly creative and productive scientist. His science is characterized by novelty and breadth. He has made seminal contributions to radical and nonradical chemistry.”—Mukund P. Sibi, North Dakota State University

Uttam K. Tambar

Image of Uttam K. Tambar.
Credit: Courtesy of Uttam K. Tambar
Uttam K. Tambar

Citation: For outstanding accomplishments in reaction development, specifically in the areas of catalytic stereoselective rearrangements, selective functionalizations of unsaturated hydrocarbons, medicinal chemistry, and natural product synthesis

Current position: Bonnie Bell Harding Professor in Biochemistry, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Education: AB, chemistry and physics, Harvard University; PhD, chemistry, California Institute of Technology

Tambar on memorable projects: “Someone once asked Tom Brady what his favorite Super Bowl ring is. His answer was, ‘The next one.’ I love that answer. I feel the same way about our projects.”

What Tambar’s colleagues say: “Uttam’s research group has taken on some of the most difficult problems in our field. Specifically, it has chosen to pursue problems in stereoselective catalysis that have remained unsolved for decades, and it has already successfully developed solutions to some of these challenges.”—Brian M. Stoltz, California Institute of Technology


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