E. Bright Wilson Award in Spectroscopy | February 11, 2008 Issue - Vol. 86 Issue 6 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 86 Issue 6 | pp. 62-63 | Awards
Issue Date: February 11, 2008

E. Bright Wilson Award in Spectroscopy

Recipients are honored for contributions of major significance to chemistry
Department: ACS News
Credit: Courtesy of Jack Freed
Credit: Courtesy of Jack Freed

Sponsored by ACS

For more than 40 years, Jack H. Freed has been doing groundbreaking theoretical and experimental work using electron spin resonance spectroscopy (ESR), a technique for studying molecules with unpaired electron spins in condensed media, to probe complex fluids and biological materials such as proteins.

Freed, 69, is director of the National Biomedical Research Center for Advanced ESR Technology (ACERT) and the Frank & Robert Laughlin Professor of Physical Chemistry at Cornell University. His work has garnered high praise from his colleagues.

"Unlike other practitioners in the field, Freed possesses both a deep and powerful command of theory and an unusual talent for experiment," says John S. Waugh, professor emeritus of chemistry at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"Due to the rigorous theoretical framework Freed uses for extracting dynamic information from ESR lineshapes, his work has become the gold standard used by virtually everyone involved in biological ESR," says Wayne L. Hubbell, distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine.

Freed's interest in the field began when he was a graduate student at Columbia University. "I was intrigued by the possibilities of using ESR to study molecular dynamics in liquids," he says. "I was also fascinated with the application of statistical mechanics to the analysis of ESR spectra."

His contributions to the use of ESR over the years are numerous. His study of molecular dynamics includes pioneering work with far-infrared ESR that resulted in innovative quasi-optical techniques. He invented methods for determining protein structures by means of distance measurements using the new technique of double quantum coherence-ESR. And he has worked on developing the emerging field of ESR microscopy, which can be used to make images of small specimens with a spatial resolution of about 1μm.

Freed says he is most pleased with his "development of a firm theoretical foundation, based on the stochastic Liouville equation, for the interpretation of a wide range of ESR experiments and the development of new ESR technologies, such as two-dimensional Fourier transform ESR and taking ESR to much higher frequencies." These techniques have transformed ESR into a powerful modern method for studying molecular dynamics in simple and complex fluids, in model and biological membranes, and in polymers and proteins, he explains.

Because of his innovations in biophysical chemistry, Freed was awarded a substantial grant from the National Institutes of Health in 2001 to establish ACERT at Cornell. The center explores the applications of advanced ESR technologies, largely developed in Freed's lab, to membrane and protein structures and their dynamics.

Despite his many years as an innovator in ESR, Freed says his attraction to the field remains strong. "The interplay of developing newer and better experimental ESR methodologies and newer and better methods of their theoretical analysis has continued to hold my interest to this day," he says.

Freed received a Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1962, working with G. K. Fraenkel. After doing postdoctoral work at Cambridge University, he joined the faculty at Cornell.

His long career has brought many honors. Freed has had numerous fellowships and visiting professorships over the years, including election as a fellow of the American Physical Society and of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. He has served on many journal editorial boards during the past decades and has won a number of distinguished awards. Among these are the Buck-Whitney Award for pure and applied chemistry from the Eastern New York Section of ACS, the Gold Medal from the International Electron Spin Resonance Society, the Irving Langmuir Prize from the American Physical Society, and the International Zavoisky Prize from the Russian Academy of Sciences. Freed was also honored by a special edition of the Journal of Physical Chemistry B (July 8, 2004) dedicated to him and his work.

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

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