2004 ACS NATIONAL AWARD WINNERS | January 12, 2004 Issue - Vol. 82 Issue 2 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 82 Issue 2 | pp. 30-35 | Awards
Issue Date: January 12, 2004

2004 ACS NATIONAL AWARD WINNERS

Recipients are honored for contributions of major significance to chemistry
Department: ACS News

Following is the second set of vignettes of recipients of awards administered by the American Chemical Society for 2004. C&EN will publish the vignettes of the remaining recipients in successive January and February issues. An article on Elias J. Corey, 2004, Priestley Medalist, is scheduled to appear in the March 29 issue of C&EN along with his award address.

Most of the award recipients will be honored at an awards ceremony, which will be held on Tuesday, March 30, in conjunction with the 227th ACS national meeting in Anaheim, Calif. However, the Arthur C. Cope Scholar awardees will be honored at the 228th ACS national meeting in Philadelphia, Aug. 22–26.

 

Peter Debye Award in Physical Chemistry

Sponsored by E. I. Du Pont de Nemours & Company

W. Carl Lineberger, 64, professor of chemistry at the University of Colorado, Boulder, has made a research career out of literally shedding some light on negative ions.

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Lineberger

Easier said than done. Over the past 30 years, Lineberger has taught the chemical world how to perform such experiments.

And colleagues appreciate the contribution. "Lineberger has done nothing less than lay the foundation for the entire field of chemistry that exploits the unique properties of negative ions to determine chemical reaction dynamics, molecular structure and energetics, and photodissociation reactions," says one.

Another colleague points to the results Lineberger was able to get in the lab. These, as in the case of electron affinity measurements, have sometimes been millions of times more precise than anything done previously. "His experiments revolutionized the spectroscopic study of gas-phase anions and provided quantitative values for the energy of electron attachment for most atoms and many key stable and open-shell molecules," the colleague says. "His quantitative values are used in chemistry textbooks throughout the world, and the results benefit chemistry in a broad-reaching way."

Lineberger's background is not typical for someone who has done such seminal work in chemistry. He received his B.S. (1961), M.S. (1963), and Ph.D. (1965), all in electrical engineering and all at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta. He then did postdoctoral work in physics at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics (JILA), Boulder, and he joined the chemistry faculty at the University of Colorado in 1970, becoming a professor in 1974. "In large measure, the science that has excited me never changed through all of that," he says.

Lineberger also credits his involvement in JILA, which allowed him to tap into scientists with a wide range of knowledge. JILA also gave him access to early tunable lasers that worked in the visible part of the spectrum. "No self- respecting neutral molecule can be ionized with such light," Lineberger recalls. But, he says, negative ions with less tightly bound electrons were ideally suited to the equipment. "A lot of the things we did represented the first applications of tunable lasers to chemical problems. We made the problem come to the laser."

Lineberger's work has grown more sophisticated as technology has improved. "More recently, we have been able to achieve additional chemical sophistication, which comes in large measure from greatly improved sensitivity." For the past several years, his work has focused on using ultrafast lasers to inspect solvent caging dynamics.

Lineberger is also an influential teacher. He enjoys taking undergraduate students doing regular course work in physical chemistry into the lab to work on real scientific problems; the research has sometimes been published. He says the experience has inspired a number of students to pursue careers in physical chemistry.

The multidisciplinary nature of this research is reflected in the awards that Lineberger has received: the ACS Irving Langmuir Award in Chemical Physics (1996), as well as the Earle K. Plyler Prize (1992) and the Herbert P. Broida Prize in Chemical Physics, both from the American Physical Society.

The award address will be presented before the Division of Physical Chemistry.--ALEX TULLO

 

Alfred Bader Award in Bioinorganic or Bioorganic Chemistry

Sponsored by Alfred Bader

Lippard
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Lippard

It was a toss-up: English literature, medicine, or chemistry. As a junior at Pennsylvania's Haverford College, Stephen J. Lippard carefully considered all three of these fields before selecting his academic path.

Chemistry won. "The pull of chemistry was just too strong," Lippard says. That pull began before college, during his high school days in Pittsburgh, he says, and was strengthened in his undergraduate years by "great teachers" and visiting scholars such as Linus Pauling and Melvin Calvin.

At Haverford, Lippard says, "I got really excited about inorganic chemistry." He found the understanding of inorganic complexes at a fundamental level to be both challenging and enticing. After earning a bachelor's degree, he was a doctoral student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. There, Lippard worked under F. Albert Cotton, whose lab was at the forefront of coordination chemistry.

After earning his doctorate, Lippard spent 16 years at Columbia University before returning to MIT, where he has worked since 1983. He has chaired the MIT chemistry department since 1995.

Lippard's research, while grounded in inorganic chemistry, has been multidisciplinary. He never gave up his interest in medicine but blended biology into his inorganic chemistry work.

He is one of the founders of the field of bioinorganic chemistry. Jacqueline K. Barton, professor of chemistry at California Institute of Technology, says Lippard's studies of the interactions between platinum and DNA moved research on metal-nucleic acid interactions from empirical biochemistry into basic coordination chemistry. Lippard and his coworkers were the first to describe in atomic detail the structure of the anticancer drug cisplatin bound to its principal biological target--the cis-(NH3)2Pt-DNA d(pGpG) cross-link in a dinucleotide, a dodecamer duplex, and in complex with a high-mobility group protein. "His work holds broad implications for understanding and designing rationally new chemotherapeutic agents," says Barton, a former student of Lippard's.

With Jeremy M. Berg, professor of biophysics and biophysical chemistry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and now the director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, Lippard wrote the 1994 textbook "Principles of Bioinorganic Chemistry." The coauthors are working on a second edition.

Lippard has also pioneered research on multi-iron centers in proteins and enzymes with nonheme di-iron centers. Coordination chemistry factors strongly in Lippard's work. His lab synthesized a molecular "ferric wheel," a symmetric, nearly circular decairon complex named after the Ferris wheel. "Steve appreciates and continues to underscore for us all the simple architectural beauty associated with coordination chemistry," Barton says.

Even though Lippard devoted his career to chemistry, with links to medicine thrown in, he hasn't given up on his interest in English. "You can ask my former students how tough I was on trying to improve their writing skills," he says.

Lippard, 63, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1989 and to the Institute of Medicine in 1993. His honors also include the 1994 ACS Award for Distinguished Service in Inorganic Chemistry and the 1987 ACS Award in Inorganic Chemistry. He is associate editor of the Journal of the American Chemical Society. In addition, he is an author of nearly 600 published papers.

The award address will be presented before the Division of Inorganic Chemistry.--CHERYL HOGUE

Frederic Stanley Kipping Award in Silicon Chemistry

Sponsored by Dow Corning

Mark
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Mark

Had it not been for a fluke in the academic offerings at Wilkes College in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., James E. Mark might now be known for his skill at playing the clarinet rather than his distinguished career in silicon polymer chemistry. "It was sort of a toss-up as to whether I was going to try to hack it as musician or make it as a chemist," says Mark, 69.

His career decision has certainly been a boon to chemistry. By applying the theory and characterization methods of classical polymer chemistry to polyorganosiloxanes, Mark has shown that these "silicones"-- thought to be a specialized area of polymer chemistry-- can, in fact, be treated with the same techniques and insights used in all-organic polymer chemistry.

Mark says that his interest in polymer chemistry was sparked in the mid-1950s when he put his undergraduate studies at Wilkes College on hold to work in the nascent polymer characterization research program at Rohm and Haas. After receiving his bachelor's degree from Wilkes, he earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from R. E. Hughes's lab at the University of Pennsylvania in 1962. A subsequent postdoctoral appointment with Paul J. Flory at Stanford ignited an interest in characterizing elastomers. "It was an area in which you could do a lot of interesting theory," Mark says. "If you're interested in something like statistical mechanics, polymers are very challenging systems for theoretical studies."

During his distinguished career of more than four decades, Mark has also made contributions to the area of polymer composites that contain sol-gel silica or exfoliated clay networks. "The reinforcement of polymer networks, including silicone networks, has been a major interest of Mark's for a number of years," says Harry R. Allcock, a chemistry professor at Pennsylvania State University. "He has made some of the most important contributions to this area. His list of publications for the past 10 years attests to the diversity of his work and the scientific and technological significance of his studies."

"His imaginative work on bimodal siloxane networks has led to a new understanding of the toughening of elastomers in general, and silicon elastomers in particular, which is of tremendous commercial importance," adds the University of Washington's Bruce Eichinger, a longtime colleague of Mark's.

Mark has also shaped many careers during his 40 years as a chemistry professor, first at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, then at the University of Michigan, and finally at the University of Cincinnati, where he currently holds the title of First Distinguished Research Professor. He has mentored more than 200 students and published more than 600 papers. His numerous honors include the Whitby Award, the Charles Goodyear Medal, the ACS Applied Polymer Science Award, and the Paul J. Flory Polymer Education Award.

"I wish that I knew Mark's secret for creating a 30-hour day," Eichinger says. "He travels frequently, attending more meetings than I can imagine, and yet manages to publish a score or more papers every year."

Mark responds with his characteristic modesty, "I've had a some very good students who have worked very hard; I've had a number of talented collaborators all over the world."

The award address will be presented at the 37th Silicon Symposium at the University of Pennsylvania, May 20--BETHANY HALFORD

 

ACS Award for Encouraging Disadvantaged Students into Careers in the Chemical Sciences

Sponsored by the Camille & Henry Dreyfus Foundation Inc.

Morales-Martinez
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Morales-Martinez

Even a brief meeting with Zaida C. Morales-Martinez can turn into a life-altering experience.

Ten minutes into a job interview for a laboratory teaching position at Florida International University (FIU) about 10 years ago, Morales-Martinez asked Claudia Cardona whether she would instead consider enrolling in a master's program in chemistry at the university. Cardona, who had been working aboard cruise ships after earning her B.S. in chemistry from Brooklyn College several years earlier, was stunned.

"I was blind to the potential that Ms. Morales saw in me, and within 10 minutes of that first meeting, she instilled in me enough courage to embark into graduate school," Cardona says. Cardona completed her master's degree at FIU in 1994 and went on to complete her Ph.D. at the University of Miami in 1999. She now has a career as a research chemist.

Cardona is one of several thousand individuals who have been touched over the past 46 years by Morales-Martinez' passion for the chemical sciences and her ability to develop students' talents. Morales-Martinez "has spent her entire professional career working quietly but resolutely for the betterment of [disadvantaged, minority, and female] students," according to FIU chemistry professor Leonard S. Keller, her colleague for 29 years.

Morales-Martinez' influence as a teacher, adviser, mentor, and friend spread far and wide. She has coordinated the Project SEED program for the South Florida Section since 1989. An African American SEED student from Miami Carol City Senior High School, Lashinda Bois, received one of the first SEED college scholarships in 1997. Another student, Jimena P. Lopez, attended the University of California, Irvine, after receiving her B.S. from FIU and obtained her Ph.D. last year under Chemistry Nobel Laureate Sherwood Rowland.

In 1994, FIU created for Morales-Martinez the position of coordinator of premedical advising and of science student recruitment and retention to recognize the mentoring activities that she had, until then, mostly conducted informally. She has been involved with the ACS Scholars Program since its inception and in 1999 was hired as its mentoring consultant.

Morales-Martinez says she tries to help all students. "I never heard the words "minority" or "disadvantaged" until I came to the U.S. to pursue a graduate degree at Pennsylvania State University," she says. She notes that in her native Puerto Rico, all students are "minority" and/or "disadvantaged," so it is natural for her to empathize with them. But empowering minorities is essential in the U.S., she says, because minorities are a rapidly growing segment of the population.

Morales-Martinez was born in Naranjito, P.R., and attended public schools. When she enrolled in the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), she was a premed major until she took quantitative and qualitative analysis. In the years of her teaching career, she has taught at UPR, Florida State University, the University of Bridgeport, and for the past 30 years at FIU.

Morales-Martinez was appointed professor emeritus in the College of Arts & Sciences when she retired last June. "She is sure to continue to work with ACS, pursuing a love that is second only to chemistry--to convince people that their aspirations to become scientists are achievable and to help them to reach their full academic and professional potential," Keller predicts.

The award address will be presented before the Division of Chemical Education.--JEAN-FRANÇOIS TREMBLAY

 

ACS Award for Creative Invention

Sponsored by Corporation Associates

Ouderkirk
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Ouderkirk

"In the true tradition of scientific invention, Andrew J. Ouderkirk, corporate scientist at 3M, took his first clues from observing nature," a colleague points out. Ouderkirk recognized that the iridescence of structures in nature, such as butterfly wings, is not due to pigment but rather to intricate patterns that control the efficiency of light scattering. He believed this effect could be replicated with precisely structured polymer films.

Using common polymers, Ouderkirk created multilayer optical films (MOF) with the desired properties. These films can now be mass produced and have expanded 3M's light-management technology platform. The MOF technology has wide-ranging application in light-polarizing products, ultra-high-efficiency light reflectors, and light-separating products. It is used, for example, in brightness enhancement films for liquid-crystal displays and monitors, films for solar control in automotive glass, and reflectors for high-efficiency solar light piping in buildings.

The multilayer films are typically composed of several hundred layers of two alternating polymers, each with its own light-refractive properties. They can be structured to control the polarization and to reflect or transmit wavelengths in the ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared ranges of the spectrum. In the manufacturing process, the extrusion of multilayers with precisely controlled variations in thickness is modeled and then produced in one of the polymer industry's first uses of advanced computer simulation-control manufacturing.

The pioneering work of Ouderkirk and his team, a colleague explains, represents major advances in optics and challenges previously accepted restrictions on light reflection set forth in the 200-year-old principle known as Brewster's law. But Ouderkirk's contribution goes much beyond what colleagues call a pioneering technological contribution.

Ouderkirk has been called a "diligent champion and entrepreneur committed to making his vision real" within 3M. His leadership, coworkers say, was key in employing computation-driven design and manufacturing, developing a formidable intellectual property strategy, and mapping out ideas for product applications. More than 65 patents on the MOF technology have been issued to date under his name and those of more than 40 co-inventors.

Ouderkirk, 47, received his bachelor's degree in chemistry from Northern Illinois University in 1978. He earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Northwestern University in 1983. After working at DuPont, he joined 3M in 1985.

Ouderkirk has been inducted into 3M's Carlton Society, named after Richard Carlton, the company's first technical director and its fifth president. Every year since 1963, 3M honors individuals from its scientific and technical community by extending membership to those who have made outstanding accomplishments and whose contributions underlie the company's success.

He has won other internal awards at 3M as well as Minnesota's Tekne Award, which recognizes technology innovations in the state. Called "generous and enthusiastic," he mentors new 3M scientists and serves on several internal company boards, including the managers' and division scientists' roundtables.

The award address will be presented before the Division of Polymeric Materials: Science & Engineering.--ANN THAYER

 

Nobel Laureate Signature Award for Graduate Education in Chemistry

Sponsored by Mallinckrodt Baker Inc.

Park
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Park

When the top professors attract the top students to work in their labs, the result is often beautiful--and important--chemistry. Such is the case with So-Jung Park and Chad A. Mirkin. Park, 31, was a chemistry student from South Korea who came to Northwestern University because she wanted to get her Ph.D. working with Mirkin, 40, the George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry and director of the Institute for Nanotechnology. "His research was really fascinating to me," Park tells C&EN.

Fortunately for her, Mirkin turned out to be "a great adviser," Park says. "He knows very well what a student needs to develop to become a good scientist." Even though Mirkin was leading a group of about 30 students and postdoctoral associates, "he was always available," Park says. And he provided her with both intellectual freedom and valuable feedback, "so it was a good balance for me."

According to her colleagues, Park flourished in the stimulating environment of Mirkin's lab. She made important contributions to scientists' understanding of the physical properties of DNA-linked nanoparticle assemblies and applied those nanostructures to make DNA-sensing systems having high sensitivity and selectivity.

Mirkin
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Mirkin

Park's research confirmed the hypothesis that one could use DNA strands to interconnect nanoparticles in solution to form nanoparticle assemblies with tailorable interparticle distances. She used a variety of materials characterization techniques to map out the structure/property relationships in these materials and found that the nanoparticle assemblies were electrically conducting under certain circumstances.

Building on this observation, Park and Mirkin devised a DNA detection method based on gold nanoparticles functionalized with oligonucleotides. When target DNA strands (such as those indicative of a disease) bind to these oligonucleotides, the nanoparticles close a gap between two microelectrodes, leading to a large and measurable change in conductivity.

According to Northwestern chemistry professor Mark A. Ratner, "This turns out to be an extraordinarily simple way to detect DNA and offers substantial advantages over fluorescence-based methods" in terms of both selectivity and sensitivity. Park achieved single-base mismatch selectivity of about 100,000:1 and 500-femtomolar sensitivity. As she noted in her thesis, "These unprecedented capabilities point toward a way of eliminating the need for polymerase chain reaction in DNA detection."

Ratner points out that Park's Ph.D. thesis was "outstanding" and that she is "one of the most remarkably talented, accomplished, and creative students to have come through our program" at Northwestern. "Her thesis work has made a major impact in bringing colloid-materials chemistry to the forefront of biology, and I am confident that she is destined for an outstanding independent career."

Northwestern chemistry professor George C. Schatz notes that "Chad provided an exciting environment for doing science, with lots of talented colleagues and first-rate facilities. So-Jung made exciting things happen, opening up new fields, and prospering in a way that only the very best students can."

Park is currently a postdoc working in the laboratory of professor Paul F. Barbara at the University of Texas, Austin. Barbara notes that "So-Jung is a rare young scientist who is equally effective as a researcher, teacher, and promoter of fundamental science." In addition to Park's ongoing research in the spectroscopic imaging of nanostructures and single-molecule spectroscopy, she also "is helping us create a graduate-level course in nanoscience and nanotechnology," Barbara says.

Park was born in Seoul and received her B.S. and M.S. in chemistry at Ewha Woman's University, Seoul, South Korea. After receiving her M.S. in 1996, she carried out research at the Korean Institute of Science & Technology for two years before embarking on her Ph.D. studies at Northwestern. She earned her Ph.D. in materials/inorganic chemistry there in 2002. During her doctoral studies, she published 12 papers and four patents, and she also won several student awards.

Mirkin received his Ph.D. in chemistry in 1989 at Pennsylvania State University and has since risen to prominence in the nanotechnology field. He is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the 1999 ACS Award in Pure Chemistry.

The award address will be presented before the Division of Inorganic Chemistry.--RON DAGANI

 

ACS Award in Analytical Chemistry

Sponsored by Battelle Memorial Institute

Pemberton
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Pemberton

"Jeanne's greatest strengths are her attention to detail and her problem focus," says D. Bruce Chase, a DuPont fellow at the DuPont Experimental Station in Wilmington, Del., about Jeanne E. Pemberton, professor of chemistry at the University of Arizona. "So many analytical chemists in today's world become technique focused. While Jeanne's area of expertise is certainly strongest in Raman scattering, she is always focused on the problem and not the technique."

Pemberton, 49, is best known for her work on surface and interfacial chemistry. "Her pioneering research on the analytical chemistry of interfaces, particularly her seminal work in applications of surface vibrational spectroscopy and electrochemistry, has enabled fundamental advances in this field in her own laboratory and the laboratories of others," says Henry N. Blount III, head of the Office of Multidisciplinary Activities in the Directorate for Mathematical & Physical Sciences at the National Science Foundation.

Much of her early work focused on understanding the mechanism of surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) and applying the technique to problems in surface chemistry. "Her fundamental studies of controlled surface roughness at electrode surfaces have provided the most quantitative insight into the correlation between the microscopic roughness of the surface and the SERS intensity," says Geraldine L. Richmond, a chemistry professor at the University of Oregon.

Some of the areas to which Pemberton has applied SERS include molecular adsorption on electrode surfaces and the orientation of nonaqueous solvents at interfaces. "She was the first to use Raman to study emersed electrochemical interfaces and continues to lead the field in combining a variety of [ultra-high-vacuum] and in situ techniques to complement her spectroscopic data," Richmond says.

"Her creative spectroscopic investigations of chromatographic stationary-phase interfacial chemistry have provided molecular-level understanding of the structures of these materials and have enabled rational insights into the influence of bonded phase structure on chromatographic performance," Blount says.

Colleagues also praise Pemberton for her dedication to educational issues. She has been involved in NSF efforts in curriculum reform for the analytical sciences. She has also served as chair of the ACS Committee on Professional Training. "Pemberton's proactive development of programs that champion gender equity and diversity on a platform of research excellence have made her a role model both for the integration of research and education and for the development of future generations of analytical scientists," Blount says.

Pemberton received her bachelor's degree in chemistry and biology from the University of Delaware in 1977. She received her Ph.D. in chemistry in 1981 from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

She joined the University of Arizona in 1981 as an assistant professor. She was promoted to associate professor and full professor in 1987 and 1992, respectively. In 2001, she became the John & Helen Schaefer Professor of Chemistry.

She has twice received awards for special creativity from NSF. She has received two teaching awards from the University of Arizona: the College of Science Distinguished Teaching Award in 1996 and the Faculty of Science Innovation in Teaching Award in 1992.

The award address will be delivered before the Division of Analytical Chemistry.--CELIA HENRY

Ronald Breslow Award for Achievement in Biomimetic Chemistry

Sponsored by the Ronald Breslow Endowment Fund

Rebek
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Rebek

Like most chemists, Julius Rebek Jr. is fascinated by molecules and their behavior. Some the questions he has wondered about are "How do molecules fit together? What happens if I completely surround a molecule by another molecule? What's it like inside a molecule? Can I make a molecule that will transport something across a membrane? Can I make a molecule that catalyzes its own formation?"

Rebek, 59, is director of the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology of Scripps Research Institute. He says he basically does physical organic chemistry, but a lot of it is inspired by biology. He makes molecules that have some of the functional characteristics of biomolecules. He explores these biomimetic systems usually in organic solvents rather than water--a fact that makes biologists bristle. But Rebek simply explains that he's studying chemical behavior, not biology.

Rebek's chemical colleagues hold him in high esteem. "Rebek is a true giant in the field of biomimetic chemistry," says chemistry professor Andrew D. Hamilton of Yale University. "He is a natural successor to the crowns of [Donald J.] Cram and [Ronald] Breslow," making him a compelling choice for this award.

"Rebek has been at the forefront of virtually every development in biomimetic chemistry over the past two decades," Hamilton points out. "In the early 1980s, Rebek led the pack in the design of artificial receptors for small organic molecules. His seminal use of constrained triacid subunits permitted the construction of a large series of synthetic receptors for small molecules. The facility with which Rebek moved from the recognition of heterocycles to amino acids to nucleotide bases to lengths of DNA laid the foundation for a field that has since expanded in many directions."

In addition, Hamilton notes, "Rebek's work on self-replicating molecules provided an important and provocative stimulus to a field that is now maturing with functioning oligopeptides and other related systems. His recent work on self-assembling cavities is exquisite, combining elegance, rigor, and fierce originality. He has established a series of hydrogen-bonded components that not only self-assemble into discrete and stable aggregates but also define sizable binding cavities that show important properties of selective recognition and catalysis."

Rebek and his coworkers have given their self-assembling capsules descriptive names that reflect their shapes, such as "tennis ball," "softball," "football," and "jelly donut." "Inspired by structural biology chemists, had dreamed of creating complex capsules for many years," comments chemistry professor Craig S. Wilcox of the University of Pittsburgh. "Rebek's elegant work provides a practical pathway to remarkably sophisticated assemblies."

Rebek was born in Hungary in 1944 and lived in Austria from 1945 to 1949. He and his family then settled in Kansas, and it was at the University of Kansas that he received his undergraduate degree. Rebek obtained his Ph.D. degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1970 for studies in peptide chemistry. His professorial career took him first to the University of California, Los Angeles, then to the University of Pittsburgh, and then back to MIT.

In 1996, he moved his research group to Scripps Research Institute. For that move, he credits the generosity of the Skaggs family, which made a major donation to Scripps to fund the center that Rebek heads.

Rebek has received the James Flack Norris Award in Physical Organic Chemistry (1997), among other awards.

He will present the award address before the Division of Organic Chemistry.--RON DAGANI

 

George A. Olah Award in Hydrocarbon or Petroleum Chemistry

Sponsored by the George A. Olah Endowment

Siskin
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Siskin

The first day of high school chemistry was enough to hook Michael Siskin on the chemical sciences. His teacher poured concentrated sulfuric acid into sugar, which turned black and spewed clouds of steam as the glucose was oxidized to carbon.

"I always wanted to find out what things are made of," says Siskin, now a senior distinguished research associate at ExxonMobil Research & Engineering Co. in Annandale, N.J. "I love solving problems and puzzles. Chemistry lets you do that."

Siskin is being honored for his many contributions to the fundamental understanding of the organic chemistry of petroleum-derived hydrocarbons. He is an internationally recognized expert in many areas, including the reactions of hydrocarbons using superacid catalysts, the structure of coal and of oil-shale kerogens, the chemistry of organic molecules in superheated water, and the chemistry underlying refinery fouling.

"Mike is articulate, knowledgeable, and has over his career demonstrated a keen ability to get to the heart of a problem and then carry out fundamental chemical research and solve it," says Alan R. Katritzky, professor of chemistry at the University of Florida, Gainesville. Katritzky is a long-time collaborator with Siskin on superheated water work that Siskin ranks among his most significant contributions.

"How does water react with organic molecules? Textbooks would say it doesn't," Siskin says. "But with superheating, you get reactions that you wouldn't have predicted would take place. The physical properties and chemical structure of water change when it's superheated." The many fruits of this research range from destruction of hazardous wastes to insight into the geochemistry of kerogens.

In his current work on refinery fouling, Siskin has discovered conditions that lead to deposits that cause processes not to run smoothly. "We look at the structure of these deposits and work backwards. Once you understand how they're formed, you can understand how to prevent them."

Siskin was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y. He received a B.S. in chemistry from Brooklyn College in 1965 and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania in 1968. He spent a year as a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University before joining Exxon in 1969.

Siskin acknowledges the important influence of three people in his career. William Doering, his research supervisor at Harvard, taught him to think more logically, to write clearly, and to "do only experiments in which even a negative result teaches you something." Alan Schriesheim, who hired Siskin, was an important first mentor at Exxon. And Andrew Kaldor, another ExxonMobil colleague, "taught me the importance of collaboration," Siskin says, "which broadens horizons and increases productivity."

The award address will be presented before the Division of Petroleum Chemistry.--PAMELA ZURER

 

Herbert C. Brown Award for Creative Research in Synthetic Methods

Sponsored by the Purdue Borane Research Fund and the Herbert C. Brown Award Endowment

Vedejs
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Vedejs

Edwin Vedejs, the Moses Gomberg Professor of Chemistry at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, started his career with a bang. A lot of little bangs, actually.

"I had a fascination with explosives, pyrotechnics, et cetera, that began during my early childhood--age five or six--living in a displaced persons camp in Germany from 1945 on," the Latvian native says. "It was surrounded by forests littered with discarded ammunition, from bullets to howitzer shells and their contents. We broke them open. My interest continued on and off. I was apprehended at ages six and 15, and had close calls at 17 and 18."

Vedejs, 63, has since channeled that early interest into a highly successful career as a synthetic chemist. For his contributions to methodology, stereochemistry, and organic synthesis, he will receive the Herbert C. Brown Award.

But it took another not-quite-100%-safe step to get there. "A high school teacher allowed me to go into the laboratory without supervision. Hard to imagine that in the current era," Vedejs says. "About that time, I first encountered organic chemistry, and perhaps decided that it was interesting enough to justify a more serious--and safer--approach."

He headed to college, receiving a B.S. from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1962 and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison (UWM) in 1966 under the supervision of Hans Muxfeldt. After a postdoctoral stint for Harvard University's E. J. Corey (winner of the 1990 Nobel Prize in Chemistry), Vedejs began a long career at UWM. In 1999, he returned to Ann Arbor, already well known in chemistry circles for his pioneering research.

Vedejs' work is underscored by a keen eye for understanding and developing new synthetic methods. Among his notable contributions in the area are numerous mechanistic and stereochemical studies of the Wittig reaction, including the direct observation of the oxaphosphetane intermediate; innovations in ylide chemistry and their applications to medium-ring synthesis; generation of nonstabilized azomethine ylides by desilylation; and breakthroughs in catalytic nucleophilic acylation. He is also proud of his work on using deuterium as a removable "blocking group" and on directed intramolecular hydroboration.

He doesn't let his success go to his head, though. "It can take a very long time to tell what will have lasting value in methodology," he says. "Utility without a good story to tell, without 'teachable moments,' is a transient thing. I tell people that our job is to plant sentences or paragraphs into advanced textbooks and monographs to tie in with the rest of what is known."

Graduate education is a theme of particular importance to Vedejs. "I'm most proud of projects that resulted from conversations with my students--many projects were--and not by following long-term plans," he says. "Graduate research is all about interaction with others over science. That is the ultimate education, and the research is the payoff."

Vedejs has served on the executive committee of the ACS Division of Organic Chemistry and as an associate editor for the Journal of the American Chemical Society. He laments that his schedule leaves far too little time for his hobbies--astronomy, music, and the outdoors--but does take the time to travel with his wife, read history, and bike to work.

The award address will be presented before the Division of Organic Chemistry.--AALOK MEHTA

 
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