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2023 ACS National Award winners—Part I

Recipients are honored for contributions of major significance to chemistry

by Nina Notman, special to C&EN
December 30, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 1


The following vignettes highlight the recipients of national awards administered by the American Chemical Society for 2023. All statements were emailed and have been edited for length and clarity. Profiles of the Arthur C. Cope Award and Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award recipients will appear in the Jan. 9/16 issue of C&EN. A profile of Cato T. Laurencin, the 2023 Priestley Medalist, will appear in the March 20/27 issue, along with his award address.

The award recipients will be honored at a ceremony at the ACS Spring 2023 meeting in Indianapolis, March 26–30.

ACS Award for Achievement in Research for the Teaching and Learning of Chemistry: Maria Oliver-Hoyo

Maria Oliver-Hoyo.
Credit: Courtesy of of Maria Oliver-Hoyo
Maria Oliver-Hoyo

Sponsor: ACS Exams Institute

Citation: For contributions to the development and operationalization of active, progressive, and ability-sensitive pedagogies for chemistry instruction

Current position: Professor of chemistry, North Carolina State University

Education: BS, chemistry, University of Puerto Rico; MS, chemistry, Georgetown University; PhD, chemistry, Drexel University

Oliver-Hoyo on her most memorable project: “Early on in my career, we developed chemistry experiments for visually challenged students to enjoy chemistry in an active, engaged, and independent way. Those sensorial experiments use senses other than vision to make chemical determinations (i.e., olfactory titrations). Some of these experiments have been used in national camps for the blind.”

What Oliver-Hoyo’s colleagues say: “Maria is a visionary researcher with an impressive scope of contributions that have benefited not only the chemistry education research field, chemical educators, and students but also society as a whole.”—Gabriela Weaver, University of Massachusetts Amherst

ACS Award for Affordable Green Chemistry: Richard T. Hallen, Johnathan E. Holladay, and Michael A. Lilga

Sponsor: Dow, and endowed by Rohm and Haas

Citation: For developing the technology for the first sustainable aviation fuel from recycled carbon, helping to decarbonize a sector that currently has limited options

What their colleagues say: “Through a combination of chemistry, catalysis, and process development, this highly skilled team at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has developed the innovative alcohol-to-jet process now being commercialized by LanzaTech. It has a compelling cost-to-benefit profile and will show the world that carbon can be recycled and used for commercial flight.”—Yong Wang, Washington State University

Richard T. Hallen.
Credit: Courtesy of Richard T. Hallen
Richard T. Hallen

Richard T. Hallen

Current position: Chief chemist, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Education: BS, mathematics and natural sciences, Lewis-Clark State College; MS, chemistry, Oregon State University

Hallen’s message to his younger self: “It’s not as hard as you think. Stick with it and learn as much as you can from everyone along the way.”

Johnathan E. Holladay

This is a photo of Johnathan E. Holladay.
Credit: Courtesy of Johnathan E. Holladay
Johnathan E. Holladay

Current position: Vice president, government programs, LanzaTech

Education: BS, chemistry, Brigham Young University; PhD, organic chemistry, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Holladay names a scientific hero: “Jennifer Holmgren, the CEO of LanzaTech, whose leadership in recycling carbon is allowing fossil carbon to stay in the ground, is one of my scientific heroes. The challenge to apply and implement scientific principles in industrial relevant processes is underappreciated yet is at the heart of solving today’s climate crisis.”

Michael A. Lilga

Current position: Retired staff scientist, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Education: BS, chemistry, State University of New York at Fredonia; PhD, inorganic chemistry, Northwestern University

Lilga on his most memorable project: “Working on the team developing processes for the production of biorenewable fuels and chemical products for LanzaTech was very satisfying. Across the board, very talented and creative people came together to develop catalysts, integrate, and scale up processes from benchtop to pilot plant, patent, commercialize, and market. The awardees are just the tip of the iceberg, and this project was successful because of the dedication and contributions of reactor operators, analysts, and many other team members.”

ACS Award for Computers in Chemical and Pharmaceutical Research: Jiali Gao

This is a photo of Jiali Gao.
Credit: Courtesy of Jiali Gao
Jiali Gao

Sponsor: ACS Division of Computers in Chemistry

Citation: For pioneering development and application of advanced electronic structural calculation–based computer simulation methods to understand complex molecular and biomolecular processes

Current position: Professor of chemistry, University of Minnesota

Education: BS, chemistry, Beijing University; PhD, chemistry, Purdue University

Gao on his research: “We have been working on multistate density functional theory (MSDFT) for chemical and biological applications for over 10 years. I have always been convinced that we were right, but it is satisfying that Yangyi Lu of Shenzhen Bay Laboratory, China, and I recently proved that MSDFT is the exact theory of excited-state DFT.”

What Gao’s colleagues say: “Jiali is a world leader in developing and applying combined quantum mechanical and molecular mechanical methods for simulating chemical reactions. He has achieved truly outstanding successes in the use of computers in research, development, and education in the chemical and biological sciences.”—Wei Yang, Florida State University

ACS Award for Creative Advances in Environmental Science and Technology: Neil M. Donahue

Neil M. Donahue.
Credit: Courtesy of Neil M. Donahue
Neil M. Donahue

Sponsor: Aerodyne Research and the ACS Division of Environmental Chemistry

Citation: For the inception and development of the volatility basis set to represent organic particulate matter in the atmosphere

Current position: Lord University Professor of Chemistry, Carnegie Mellon University

Education: AB, physics, Brown University; PhD, meteorology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Donahue on his scientific hero: “My father, Thomas Donahue, was a real rocket scientist who started the use of sounding rockets with leftover ordinance. He ultimately discovered that ‘Venus was all wet,’ and this was the title he wanted for the article describing findings of the Pioneer Venus Multiprobe.”

What Donahue’s colleagues say: “Neil has been a principal player in virtually every important intellectual development in the field of atmospheric chemistry and aerosol formation over the past 2 decades. His work has consistently shifted the paradigms of atmospheric chemistry.”—John Seinfeld, California Institute of Technology

ACS Award for Creative Invention: Younan Xia

This is a photo of Younan Xia.
Credit: Courtesy of Younan Xia
Younan Xia

Sponsor: ACS Corporation Associates

Citation: For the invention of silver nanowires and many other new forms of colloidal nanomaterials with vast applications in display, electronics, plasmonics, sensing, catalysis, and medicine

Current position: Brock Family Chair, Georgia Institute of Technology

Education: BS, chemical physics, University of Science and Technology of China; MS, chemistry, University of Pennsylvania; PhD, physical chemistry, Harvard University

Xia on the most rewarding part of his job: “That the methods developed by my group will be further used by other groups to develop new materials or even products for applications that I have not thought about. I think this is the right way for the progression of scientific knowledge.”

What Xia’s colleagues say: “Younan has demonstrated exceptional creativity in shape-controlled synthesis of metal nanocrystals. In addition to their use in electronics, photonics, and display, these new materials will have a profound impact on the design and production of future catalysts with a minimum of precious metal content.”—Peidong Yang, University of California, Berkeley

ACS Award for Creative Work in Fluorine Chemistry: Viacheslav A. Petrov

Viacheslav A. Petrov.
Credit: Courtesy of Viacheslav A. Petrov
Viacheslav A. Petrov

Sponsor: ACS Division of Fluorine Chemistry

Citation: For the development of electrophilic transformations of fluorinated materials, synthesis of small polyfluorinated heterocycles and new fluorinating agents, and studies of polyfluorinated sulfur (II)–containing compounds

Current position: Research fellow, Chemours

Education: PhD, organic chemistry, A.N. Nesmeyanov Institute of Organoelement Compounds of the USSR Academy of Sciences

Petrov names his most memorable project: “Development of a new generation of photoresists for 157 nm photolithography.”

What Petrov’s colleagues say: “During his more than 40-year career in fluorine chemistry, Viacheslav has made—and continues to make—significant, highly creative research contributions that have advanced the field of synthetic fluorine chemistry in a highly diverse number of areas.”—William Dolbier, University of Florida

ACS Award for Creative Work in Synthetic Organic Chemistry: Peter Wipf

Peter Wipf.
Credit: Courtesy of Peter Wipf
Peter Wipf

Sponsor: MilliporeSigma

Citation: For the discovery of innovative methods in heterocyclic and strain-release chemistry and the development of novel strategies to synthesize complex natural and unnatural molecules

Current position: Distinguished University Professor, University of Pittsburgh

Education: Diploma and PhD, chemistry, University of Zurich

Wipf on his most memorable project: “Two of my students discovered serendipitously an early-transition-metal-mediated cascade reaction that introduced nine new C–C bonds. When we thought about possible mechanisms, we speculated that a bicyclo[1.1.0]butane might serve as a key intermediate. Amazingly, this actually turned out to be the case, and it started a still ongoing, most stimulating research effort on the chemistry of bicyclobutanes in my lab.”

What Wipf’s colleagues say: “Peter’s work has contributed significantly to virtually every aspect of modern organic synthesis. He is one of the scientific leaders in this field, and dozens of his novel small molecules are used as probe molecules for biological pathways and as therapeutic lead structures.”—Dennis Curran, University of Pittsburgh

ACS Award for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry: Alison Butler

Alison Butler.
Credit: Courtesy of Alison Butler
Alison Butler

Sponsor: Strem Chemicals (part of Ascensus Specialties)

Citation: For groundbreaking accomplishments in bioinorganic chemistry and leadership to the national and international chemistry community through the ACS Division of Inorganic Chemistry

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 the most rewarding part of her job: “Hands down, working with the students in my lab is the most rewarding part of my job—they inspire me. I love watching the transformation of my graduate students as they progress, and I love what they teach me. It is always a thrill when a new result comes in, made all the more so when I see their excitement and sense of accomplishment.”

What Butler’s colleagues say: “Alison has made seminal contributions in diverse areas that include Fe mediation within the environment and the bioinspired development of new adhesives. She also has a long history of exemplary service to advance opportunities for younger scientists, to promote scientific exchange among chemists in national and international settings, and to promote excellence in science.”—Andrew Borovik, University of California, Irvine

ACS Award for Encouraging Disadvantaged Students into Careers in the Chemical Sciences: Ann C. Kimble-Hill

This is a photo of Ann C. Kimble-Hill.
Credit: Courtesy of Ann C. Kimble-Hill
Ann C. Kimble-Hill

Sponsor: Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation

Citation: For dedication to fostering an inclusive environment for student success through mentored research, and enhancing an institutional culture promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice

Current position: Assistant research professor of biochemistry, Indiana University School of Medicine

Education: BSE, chemical engineering, University of Michigan; MEng, chemical engineering, University of Illinois Chicago; PhD, chemistry, Purdue University

Kimble-Hill on her most memorable project: “Working with the Indiana University–Purdue University Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program and the universities’ Indianapolis undergraduate research programs allows me to take on the task of molding the minds and coaching of young underrepresented students. It’s been a labor of love to prepare them with knowledge of the academic system that previously was a hidden curriculum for me.”

What Kimble-Hill’s colleagues say: “Ann has been an outstanding mentor for the ACS Project SEED program for 10 years. Her dedication has resulted in strong and lasting relationships that springboarded the careers of the 17 students she has mentored.”—Elmer Sanders, Indiana University School of Medicine

ACS Award for Encouraging Women into Careers in the Chemical Sciences: Caroline Ylitalo

Caroline Ylitalo.
Credit: Courtesy of Caroline Ylitalo
Caroline Ylitalo

Sponsor: Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation

Citation: For the tireless volunteering and mentoring of young women and for serving as a role model to precollege girls in encouraging them to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics

Current position: Division scientist, 3M

Education: BS, chemical engineering, University of California, Berkeley; MS and PhD, chemical engineering, Stanford University

Ylitalo on her scientific hero: “My scientific hero is undoubtedly Nikola Tesla. He was a math and physics prodigy who successfully reduced scientific principles to numerous technological breakthroughs that continue to impact our lives today. He was a prolific inventor with over 300 patents for significant engineering concepts not limited by any specific discipline. He never tried to profit from his valuable inventions; instead he gave away his ideas for the benefit of humankind.”

What Ylitalo’s colleagues say: “Caroline demonstrates a passion for mentoring, especially women, to pursue the sciences. The impact of her guidance is evident in the successes achieved by so many of her mentees.—Jonnie Hauswirth, 3M


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