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2019 Cope and Cope Scholar Award winners

Recipients are honored for contributions of major significance to chemistry

by Linda Wang
January 27, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 4


The following vignettes highlight the recipients of the Arthur C. Cope Award and the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Awards, administered by the American Chemical Society for 2019. Vignettes for the rest of the ACS National Award recipients were published in the Jan. 21 issue of C&EN. Recipients of the Cope Award and Cope Scholar Awards will be honored at a ceremony at the fall ACS national meeting in San Diego, Aug. 25–29.

Arthur C. Cope Award: Dieter Seebach

A photo of Dieter Seebach.
Credit: Dieter Seebach

Sponsor: Arthur C. Cope Fund

Citation: For fundamental and practical contributions to chemistry, including theory, innovative concepts, and methods for chemical synthesis, along with preparation and study of novel bioactive structures

Current position: Emeritus professor of chemistry, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich

Education: MSc and PhD, chemistry, University of Karlsruhe

Seebach on why and how he changed research areas so often during his career: “My teacher, Rudolf Criegee, used to say, ‘Research is a magical mystery tour and everything fundamentally new falls into your lap.’ I was fortunate to live in an era when a chemistry professor enjoyed generous support for research. We could let an unexpected experimental result or a crazy idea direct us into a new field without having to apply for funding. The short answer to the question posed above is: ‘We let chemistry lead the way.’ ”

What his colleagues say: “Professor Seebach’s work in organic synthesis consists of important practical discoveries and ensuing developments for chemical synthesis as well as deep theoretical insight and the formulation of groundbreaking concepts in chemical reactivity. Collectively, these provide fresh new avenues for the advancement of chemistry, the fruits of which are evident in many recent, exciting developments in the field.”—Erick M. Carreira, ETH Zurich

Arthur C. Cope Scholar Awards

Sponsor: Arthur C. Cope Fund

Varinder K. Aggarwal

A photo of Varinder Aggarwal.
Credit: Varinder Aggarwal

Citation: For his highly creative work in the development of asymmetric homologation of boronic esters and their applications in natural and nonnatural product synthesis

Current position: Chemistry professor, University of Bristol

Education:BA, chemistry, and PhD, organic chemistry, University of Cambridge

Aggarwal on what gets his creative juices flowing: “An unusual or unexpected result, which is followed by a light-bulb moment of the potential for the new reactivity observed. I feel like a kid in a sweet shop. However, these occasions are rare. They say fortune favors the prepared mind, but it requires more—the chance discoveries involve careful work to isolate small amounts of material, work out the structure before recognizing the potential of the discovery. But it’s very exciting for the student and supervisor when this does happen.”

What his colleagues say: “Aggarwal had developed synthetic methodology that is becoming used regularly by both process and medicinal chemists, and he has done this in a uniquely elegant and thought-provoking way.”—John F. Hartwig, University of California, Berkeley

Alison Butler

A photo of Alison Butler.
Credit: Alison Butler

Citation: For outstanding accomplishments in the bioorganic chemistry of siderophores and the biosynthesis of halogenated marine natural products by haloperoxidases

Current position: Distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry, University of California, Santa Barbara

Education: BA, chemistry, Reed College; PhD, chemistry, University of California San Diego

Butler on what she hopes to accomplish in the next decade: “I would like to have applied microbial genome mining of biosynthetic pathways to trace evolutionary divergence in the biosynthesis of natural products, including microbial ligands used in acquisition of metals and maintenance of metal ion homeostasis, and to have harnessed these biosynthetic pathways and compounds for beneficial purposes.”

What her colleagues say: “Professor Butler is a world-renowned chemist with breadth and depth of accomplishment in research and leadership to the international scientific community. The landscape of her accomplishments is distinguished by her creative and adventurous approach to science.”—Craig Hawker, University of California, Santa Barbara

Eugene Y.-X. Chen

A photo of Eugene Chen.
Credit: Eugene Chen

Citation: For outstanding accomplishments in organocatalysis and organic polymers, particularly for developing selective catalysts, new organocatalytic or metal-mediated reactions, and novel sustainable polymers

Current position: John K. Stille Endowed Chair in Chemistry and Millennial Professor of Polymer Science and Sustainability, Colorado State University

Education: BS, chemistry, Shangrao Normal University; MS, organic chemistry, Nankai University; PhD, polymer and organometallic chemistry, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Chen on his scientific role model: “My mentors shaped my career, but my scientific role model has a C3H3 formula—not the smallest aromatic cyclopropenium cation, as you might think. It is rather a simple combination of clear head, clever hands, and clean habits. This model has guided me and my students to strive to be good chemists who have this C3H3 quality: critical thinkers with a strong work ethic, skillful lab techniques, and reliable data producing and processing practices.”

What his colleagues say: “Chen has made seminal contributions to organocatalysis and organic polymers by developing extraordinarily selective catalysts, highly original organocatalytic and metal-catalyzed polymerization processes, and novel stereoregular and recyclable sustainable polymers. His diverse accomplishments have broken much new ground, and his science evidences the highest scholarly standards from conception through to execution and eloquent exposition.”—Tobin J. Marks, Northwestern University

Cathleen M. Crudden

A picture of Cathleen Crudden
Credit: Kathleen Crudden

Citation: For pioneering advances in stereoselective cross couplings and innovative applications of organic chemistry to materials science

Current position: Chemistry professor, Queen’s University (Kingston, Ontario); research professor, Institute of Transformative Bio-Molecules, Nagoya University

Education: BSc and MSc, chemistry, University of Toronto; PhD, chemistry, University of Ottawa

Crudden on what gets her creative juices flowing: “I get the most inspiration by listening to talks from experts in other fields and spending time in the pages of journals. The ability of synthetic organic chemistry and organometallic chemistry to impact other fields is tremendous, but it is hard to know what the key challenges in other fields are if researchers don’t spend time with people from outside their fields. By nature, I am a gregarious and curious person, and so I love hearing what other people are doing and what challenges they are addressing.”

What her colleagues say: “Organic chemists dream of predictable, building-block-based approaches to assembling large molecules in a piece-by-piece fashion. Professor Crudden extended the field from the formation of sp2 and sp bonds to the construction of stereochemically defined sp3-sp2 couplings. Her work provided inspiration for what is now a vast field, much of which is still racemic, that aims to implement the work she established across many new cross couplings.” —Jeffrey Bode, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich

Matthew B. Francis

A photo of Matthew B. Francis.
Credit: Matthew B. Francis

Citation: For the development of new protein-modification reactions for the creation of hybrid materials for diagnostic imaging, solar energy conversion, and environmental remediation

Current position: T.Z. and Irmgard Chu Distinguished Professor in Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley; faculty scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Education: BS, chemistry, Miami University; PhD, chemistry, Harvard University

Francis on what gets his creative juices flowing:“I have always loved to explore new chemical reactivity, in the contexts of both biomolecules and small molecules. The rich functional landscapes provided by protein surfaces offer great opportunities to push the limits of reaction chemoselectivity, and we are just beginning to understand how regioselectivity can be controlled in such settings. I am also very excited about using the creative power of synthetic chemistry to study biological function and construct new biomolecular materials.”

What his colleagues say: “Virtually all of his strategies for protein modification represent entirely new approaches to biomolecule modification, often through the use of unprecedented reactions that were developed by his laboratory specifically for this purpose. By taking this approach, he has significantly expanded our fundamental understanding of protein reactivity, and he has identified entire new families of bioconjugation reactions that were not considered previously.”—Michelle C. Y. Chang, University of California, Berkeley

Jeremiah A. Johnson

A photo of Jeremiah Johnson.
Credit: Jeremiah Johnson

Citation: For the development of methods for precision polymer synthesis that have generated macromolecules with novel functions and new insights into polymer network structure and mechanics

Current position: Associate professor of chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Education: BS, biomedical engineering and chemistry, Washington University in St. Louis; MS and PhD, chemistry, Columbia University

Johnson on his biggest research challenge: “There are always challenges, but when you love what you’re doing, it’s easy to stay motivated. Securing research funding for basic science is an ongoing issue that we as a society must address if we are going to be leaders in the world when it comes to addressing climate change, water/food supply, sustainable materials, etc.”

What his colleagues say: “Jeremiah is the most highly exceptional organic materials chemist of his generation, who uniquely advances fundamental synthetic methodology developments and practical materials designs.”—Karen L. Wooley, Texas A&M University

Thomas J. Maimone

A photo of Thomas Maimone.
Credit: Thomas Maimone

Citation: For his strikingly concise and innovative total syntheses of complex terpenes

Current position: Associate professor of chemistry, University of California, Berkeley

Education: BS, chemistry, University of California, Berkeley; PhD, organic chemistry, Scripps Research Institute

Maimone on the people who have had the greatest impact on his career: “I am blessed to have worked for three truly creative individuals at the undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral level. All of my scientific mentors allowed me great freedom in pursuing my own ideas, learning to fail, and developing a sense of how to navigate toward something even better than was originally planned. These experiences were crucial when I established my own research group. Now I learn something new every day from my own students.”


What his colleagues say: “Tom’s first selected project with me involved the total synthesis of a family of architecturally complex and bioactive alkaloids named the ambiguines. In one year he completed this project and his work was published as an article in Nature. In the span of one year he had accomplished the amount of work that a normal student or postdoc might accomplish in two to three years. After that he went on to complete the first total synthesis of vinigrol through a strategy he devised on a napkin in about an hour.”—Phil Baran, Scripps Research

Robert J. McMahon

A photo of Robert McMahon.
Credit: Robert McMahon

Citation: For his insightful studies of the structures and reactivity patterns of foundational organic molecules and the insights he has provided to a broad scientific community

Current position: Chemistry professor, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Education: BS, chemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; PhD, organic chemistry, University of California, Los Angeles

McMahon on what he hopes to accomplish in the next decade:“My students and I are very anxious about the possibility of detecting our first molecule in space. And hopefully it will not take a decade!”

What his colleagues say: “McMahon’s elegant mechanistic studies, described in clearly written papers, have established an international reputation for excellence and scholarship. He bridges the fields of organic chemistry, molecular spectroscopy, theory, physical chemistry, and even astronomy.”—Samuel Gellman, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Masahiro Murakami

A photo of Masahiro Murakami.
Credit: Masahiro Murakami

Citation: For his seminal contributions in developing reactions that activate carbon-carbon bonds en route to generating molecules of increased complexity for streamlined organic synthesis

Current position: Chemistry professor, Kyoto University

Education: BSc, MSc, and DSc, chemistry, University of Tokyo

Murakami on his scientific role model:“I admire my mentor, professor Teruaki Mukaiyama, as a human being as well as a scientist. He is a determined person who stresses what is worth pursuing and what is right without caring about personal advantages or disadvantages to him.”

What his colleagues say: “Professor Murakami is regarded as one of the most creative and prolific organic chemists in the world, with his highly visible contributions covering many areas of synthetic chemistry. All of his studies are characterized by the same Murakami hallmarks: well conceived, creative in execution, detailed in mechanism, and clearly communicated. Murakami is a deep thinker and is not restrained by convention or boundaries.”—Tomislav Rovis, Columbia University

Tehshik P. Yoon

A photo of Tehshik Yoon.
Credit: Tehshik Yoon

Citation: For pioneering work in the field of photoredox catalysis

Current position: Chemistry professor, University of Wisconsin–Madison

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

Yoon on his scientific role model: “At the risk of giving a cliché answer for a photochemist: Giacomo Ciamician, whose experiments using sunlight on the roof of his laboratory in Bologna earned him the title ‘father of organic photochemistry.’ I’m impressed by the way his interest in the chemistry of plants led him to study light-initiated transformations of organic compounds and then to propose that solar energy could free civilization of the need to use fossil fuels.”

What his colleagues say: “In only a short period of time, Tehshik has made a tremendous impact on the field of catalysis and chemical synthesis. He has helped enable a major research field in organic chemistry—namely, the introduction of photoredox catalysis into the broader field of chemical synthesis. Indeed, Tehshik has been a pioneer in bringing the concept of photoredox catalysis to the development of new chemical reactions that have widespread utility in the academic and pharmaceutical chemistry communities.”—David MacMillan, Princeton University


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