Issue Date: October 19, 2009
Georgia Section Celebrates 75th Herty Medal
The ACS Georgia Section pulled out all the stops last month in Atlanta while hosting a two-day festival commemorating the 75th awarding of the Charles Holmes Herty Medal. Events drew more than 600 participants and 12 prior medalists in addition to this year's winner—Craig L. Hill, a chemistry professor at Emory University. The medal, which is given annually by the section, honors outstanding research and service in the southeastern U.S. and is the section's most important and oldest award. Georgia Institute of Technology chemistry professor Rigoberto Hernandez and dozens of section members organized the festival's multiple activities, which aimed to bring chemistry to the community—particularly to Atlanta-area high school and college students—under the theme "Chemistry for Life in the Southeast."
Endlessly energetic, Hernandez emceed most of the activities, which started the morning of Sept. 16 with a luncheon hosted by Atlanta-based Coca-Cola. The activities continued through a formal award banquet that evening and finished late in the afternoon of Sept. 17 as chemistry professors and students, teachers and enthusiasts, section members, and families and friends left the festivities happy but exhausted.
Since joining Emory's faculty in 1983, Hill, who is Goodrich C. White Professor of Chemistry, has collaborated with scientists internationally on innovative green chemistry solutions. His recent work on processes needed to convert solar energy into hydrogen, which was the subject of his award address at the banquet, laid the groundwork for Emory's Renewable Energy Center, which was established this fall.
The Herty Medal went to Hill for his contributions in catalytic oxidation, C–H functionalization, self-repairing and buffering catalysts, oxygen-transfer reactions, and multifunctional nanomaterials. Of particular note to the award jury was his development of the most reactive known catalysts for removal of environmental pollutants, odors, and toxics from air; preparation of terminal noble-metal oxo compounds; and creation of the only stable and soluble catalysts for oxidation of water—crucial compounds for achieving green, sustainable production of hydrogen fuel.
Following the luncheon at Coca-Cola, former medalists and 110 college students and chemistry faculty convened at Georgia Tech for an afternoon of chemistry talks and posters illustrating chemistry's contributions to human health and energy. Gary B. Schuster, who is the 2006 Herty medalist and provost and vice president of academic affairs at Georgia Tech, welcomed attendees. Isiah Warner, 1992 medalist and vice chancellor at Louisiana State University; James Powers, 2000 medalist and chemistry of professor at Georgia Tech; and 2001 medalist F. Ivy Carroll, Distinguished Fellow in Medicinal Chemistry at RTI International, each discussed their work applying chemistry to human health.
After the speakers answered questions from the audience, attendees and medalists circulated through a research poster session involving graduate students from local universities and lined up for finger sandwiches and sweet iced tea, that ubiquitous southern staple, before reconvening for the next session.
Chemistry's contributions to the environment and sustainability were the topic of the second afternoon session, which featured talks by Luis Echegoyen, 2007 medalist and director of the Chemistry Division at the National Science Foundation; Gregory H. Robinson, 2008 medalist and chemistry professor at the University of Georgia; Mary L. Good, 1975 medalist and the dean of engineering and information technology at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock; and Gordon L. Nelson, 1998 medalist and dean of the College of Science at Florida Institute of Technology.
The next day, programs for high school students were held simultaneously at Emory, Georgia Gwinnett College, Georgia State University, and Kennesaw State University. Medalists split up to make presentations at these events, some of which featured student-run chemistry magic shows. Nearly 400 high school students from Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, and Gwinnett Counties, and Atlanta, Decatur, and Marietta city school districts went away with a better understanding of chemistry's role in their lives and a bag of gifts that included stickers, magnets, a periodic table, and other goodies.
The 4th Annual Herty Medal Undergraduate Research Symposium was held on the afternoon of Sept. 18 at Morehouse College. This event promotes undergraduate research in the Atlanta area, and this year it attracted more than 50 students, 19 of whom presented posters. Georgia Tech professor Hernandez and Morehouse professor Brian Lawrence cochaired the event, which began with invited talks by Emory professor Hill; Wendy Kelly, professor at Georgia Tech; Leyte Winfield, professor at Spelman College; and Dabney Dixon, professor at Georgia State. A poster session for undergraduates followed. To sweeten the pot, presenters of the winning posters each received a $500 travel grant to attend a future ACS meeting, and several presenters won one-year ACS memberships.
Barring unforeseen circumstances, sometime in September 2034, the ACS Georgia Section will present the 100th Herty Medal. If the Georgia Section of the future wants to have a centennial event bigger than last month's 75th, some very forward-thinking high schooler, perhaps one whose interest was captured by chemistry demos and engaging lectures, should start figuring out how to do it—and start soon. It's going to be tough to beat the semisesquicentennial.
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