Obituaries | February 11, 2008 Issue - Vol. 86 Issue 6 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 86 Issue 6 | pp. 70-71 | Obituaries
Issue Date: February 11, 2008


Department: ACS News

George J. Alkire, 90, a nuclear chemist who worked on the Hanford Project, died on Sept. 20, 2007, in Olympia, Wash.

Born in Missoula, Mont., Alkire earned a B.S. from Walla Walla College, in College Place, Wash., in 1942; an M.S. in chemistry from the University of Oregon in 1944; and a Ph.D. in chemistry from Ohio State University in 1948. His coursework at Ohio State had been interrupted in late 1944 when he worked on the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

In 1948, he moved to Richland, Wash., to begin three decades of work as a nuclear chemist on the Hanford Project, which was originally set up to produce plutonium for the Manhattan Project. During that time, he worked as a manager at General Electric, Battelle's northwest laboratory, and Westinghouse Hanford.

His wife, Esther, died in 2002. Alkire is survived by three sons, Tom, Bill, and Richard, and seven grandchildren. He joined ACS in 1944.


Arup K. Basak, 59, a Food & Drug Administration senior regulatory chemist, died on Aug. 18, 2007.

Basak earned a Ph.D. in coordination chemistry from Calcutta University in 1977. As a postdoctoral researcher, he worked with Hitoshi Ohtaki at Tokyo Institute of Technology; Robert W. Hay at the University of Stirling, in Scotland; Thomas A. Kaden at the University of Basel, in Switzerland; and Arthur E. Martell and Eugene G. Sander at Texas A&M University, College Station, and the University of Arizona, respectively.

Prior to joining FDA in 2002, Basak was employed by Phillip Morris USA in Richmond, Va., and DuPont in Wilmington, Del., working on product and process development and technology transfer projects.

Basak published many research papers relating to bioinorganic and bioorganic chemistry, catalysts, polymers, and supercritical fluid chemistry. He also coauthored U.S. and European patents on printing ink formulations.

Most recently, he served as one of the guest editors for a special issue of Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews entitled "Pharmaceutical Impurities: Analytical, Toxicological and Regulatory Perspectives." He joined ACS in 1984.

He is survived by his wife, Mamta Gautam-Basak, and son, Shawn.

James W. Hovick, 42, teaching associate professor of chemistry at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, died unexpectedly on Oct. 12, 2007.

Born in Bellefonte, Pa., Hovick graduated from Franklin & Marshall College, in Lancaster, Pa., with a B.A. in chemistry in 1987. He earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Michigan in 1994.

After taking temporary teaching positions at the University of Michigan and California State University, Hayward (now CSU East Bay), Hovick joined the UNC Charlotte faculty in 1996. There, he was initially appointed director of its introductory chemistry laboratories and later became coordinator of the general chemistry program. In addition, he taught and mentored the graduate teaching assistants of the chemistry M.S. program and the nanoscale science Ph.D. program. Hovick also served on the university's task force for revising general education. He was an ACS member, joining in 1987.

Hovick is survived by two children, his parents, and two brothers.


Robert E. Maizell, 82, a chemical information pioneer, died on April 8, 2007.

Born in Baltimore, Maizell received a B.S. degree in chemistry from Loyola College in Maryland in 1945. He then attended Columbia University, earning B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in library science there by 1957.

He took a job in Niagara Falls, N.Y., with Mathieson Chemical, which later merged with Olin to become Olin Mathieson Chemical, based in New Haven, Conn. Upon his retirement in 1986, Maizell was Olin's manager of business and scientific intelligence centers for new technologies.

During his career, Maizell was also director of the documentation research project for the American Institute of Physics and adjunct instructor at Southern Connecticut College. He was author of three editions of the book "How To Find Chemical Information: A Guide for Practicing Chemists, Educators, and Students." He had been working on a fourth edition at the time of his death.

Upon his retirement, Maizell founded a consulting firm, Technology Information Consultants, based in New Haven. He specialized in the retrieval and interpretation of chemical structure information in patents, serving clients globally.

Maizell was active in the ACS Division of Chemical Information and its predecessor, the Division of Chemical Literature. He was chair of the division in 1971. He joined ACS in 1951.

Maizell is survived by his wife of 52 years, Mona; two daughters; and three granddaughters.


Gary J. Powers, 61, professor of chemical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, died on July 23, 2007.

Powers received a B.S. in chemical engineering from the University of Michigan in 1967 and a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1971.

He served on the faculty of Massachusetts Institute of Technology before joining Carnegie Mellon in 1974.

A creative and enthusiastic educator, Powers taught Carnegie Mellon's introductory course in chemical engineering, emphasizing process synthesis concepts. In that course, he organized a chemical boat competition in which students designed, fabricated, and tested chemically powered shoebox-sized boats.

In teaching undergraduates, Powers created laboratory experiments that emphasized process safety and environmental risk assessment, and he stressed the importance of oral and written communication in engineering. His most recent endeavor, a corn-to-polymers project, required students to generate synthetic polyester fibers from a renewable resource.

As part of the safety course he taught to undergraduate and graduate students, he introduced concepts and techniques developed in his own pioneering research in safety analysis, process risk assessment, and process synthesis.

In 1973, Powers coauthored the text "Process Synthesis" with Dale F. Rudd and Jeffrey J. Siirola. In 1976, he founded Design Sciences, an engineering firm that provides quantitative risk assessment services.

Powers received the 2005 Norton H. Walton/Russell L. Miller Award in Safety/Loss Prevention from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers in recognition of outstanding chemical engineering contributions and achievements in the areas of loss prevention, safety, and health.

At Carnegie Mellon, Powers was a frequent recipient of the chemical engineering department's Kun Li Award for Excellence in Education, awarded by each graduating class to the faculty mentor they felt had the greatest impact on them. He was actively involved in engineering outreach activities to K-12 students at the local science center.

Powers is survived by his wife of 41 years, Susan; six children; and seven grandchildren. He joined ACS in 1973.


Joseph Sampugna, 75, professor emeritus of biochemistry at the University of Maryland, College Park, died on Aug. 21, 2007, following a short battle with lung cancer.

After serving in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, Sampugna received B.A. and M.A. degrees in psychology in 1959 and 1962, respectively, at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in biochemistry there in 1968, working with Robert G. Jensen. He joined the faculty of the department of chemistry at the University of Maryland in 1968, becoming professor emeritus of biochemistry in 1997. After his formal retirement, he remained actively involved in research until reaching the final stages of his illness.

Sampugna's work spanned a broad area within lipid biochemistry. He developed analytical methods, especially those involving gas chromatography, for the rapid analysis of fatty acids in foods and tissues.

Starting in the early 1980s, he elucidated the metabolic effects and the potential dangers of dietary trans-fatty acids. His work culminated in a 1996 editorial, coauthored by B. B. Teter, "Trans-Fatty Acid Content Should Be Included on Food Labels," in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Sampugna's research also included analysis of fat content in the U.S. diet in support of the Agriculture Department's Food Composition Group.

Sampugna authored or coauthored more than 75 papers, 11 monographs, and four books, including, "Molecules in Living Systems: A Biochemistry Model," which he cowrote with David Martin. Sampugna held two patents and had several pending at his time of death.

He was a member of the American Society for Nutritional Sciences, the American Oil Chemist Society, the Institute of Food Technologists, and ACS, which he joined in 1968.

Sampugna is survived by his wife of more than 50 years, Dorothy; two children; and four grandchildren.


James C. Smart, 62, a La Crescenta, Calif., chemist involved in energy research and intellectual property management, died on Aug. 28, 2007, of a heart attack that followed several years of battling non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Born in Caribou, Maine, Smart received a bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1968 at the University of California, Riverside. He then earned a Ph.D. in chemistry at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1973, having been a part of Alan Davison's research group.

He immediately joined the UC Berkeley faculty as assistant professor of chemistry. Then, in 1978, he took a senior scientist position at the newly formed National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., where he supervised the development of chemical applications of solar energy and biomass utilization. He was also a group leader of the Synthesis & Catalysis Group and principal investigator in the Department of Energy's Division of Chemical Sciences. He was also an adjunct research professor at Colorado School of Mines, beginning in 1980.

In 1988, Smart returned to California, joining the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena as technical group supervisor for electronic materials in the electric power systems section, where he managed a research program in energy conversion and power storage.

In 1991, he began a decade-long involvement in intellectual property management, first at the Technology Transfer Office at UCLA and later at California Institute of Technology. In 1995, he founded the Vaillancourt Group, where he remained as managing director until his death, conducting technology and intellectual property evaluation, competitive intelligence, project management, licensing, and business development.

Smart was a member of the Licensing Executives Society, the Association of University Technology Managers, and ACS, which he joined in 1972.

He is survived by his wife, Gretchen; two sons, Alan and David; and two siblings.


Edward N. Wheeler, 79, a retired Celanese Chemical executive, died on Oct. 9, 2007, in Dallas, after a long battle with many illnesses, including cancer, heart disease, and kidney failure.

Born in Yancey, Texas, Wheeler graduated magna cum laude from Texas A&M University, Kingsville, twice, earning a B.A. in chemistry in 1947 and a B.S. in chemical engineering in 1949. He then earned an M.A. in 1951 and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry in 1953 from the University of Texas, Austin.

Wheeler spent his entire career, beginning in 1953, working for Celanese. He started as a research chemist in the company's technical center in Corpus Christi, Texas, and rose through the ranks to become vice president of research, development, and planning in 1976 in New York City and Dallas, which became the company headquarters in 1978.

He led his R&D organization in developing technology in the production of vinyl acetate, formaldehyde, paraformaldehyde, acetic acid, acrylic acid, acrylate esters, and oxo-chemicals. He retired in 1983.

Wheeler published two papers and held 14 U.S. patents. He was active in ACS, which he joined in 1949. He was also a counselor in the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and an emeritus member of the Industrial Research Institute. After retiring, Wheeler worked as a chemical consultant and expert witness.

Wheeler is survived by his wife of 57 years, Luella; five children, Gordon, Sterling, Darrell, Murray, and Charlotte; and eight grandchildren.


Obituaries are written by Susan J. Ainsworth. Obituary notices may be sent to and should include detailed educational and professional history.

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