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ACS Award for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry

Sponsored by Strem Chemicals

by Stephen K. Ritter
January 18, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 3

Credit: Michael Brown/U of South Carolina
Credit: Michael Brown/U of South Carolina

Distinguished service awards recognize the outstanding contributions that a member of a research community has made to his or her field. This year, Richard D. Adams, the Carolina Distinguished Professor at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, was selected by his peers for the breadth of his work in advancing inorganic chemistry.

“Rick Adams is an outstanding choice for the distinguished service award,” comments Northwestern University’s Tobin J. Marks, who received the award in 2008. Adams is an affable chemist known for organizing superlative conferences and symposia and for his editorial work on two key inorganic chemistry journals, Marks says. In addition, Adams’ pioneering research on the chemistry of metal carbonyl complexes and cluster compounds “has repeatedly demonstrated the remarkable ability of these compounds to produce novel chemistry upon small molecules at polynuclear metal sites,” Marks notes.

Adams is most proud of his group’s research studies on hydrogen activation by mixed-metal cluster compounds. These specially designed complexes are crafted from a combination of two transition metals, a bulky phosphine ligand, and a tin or germanium modifier.

In one case, Adams and coworkers used a bimetallic cluster to help elucidate the mechanism by which two metal centers cooperate to facilitate a hydrogen-transfer reaction. For example, OsH(CO)4Sn(C6H5)3 doesn’t react with phenylacetylene, even at elevated temperature. But when combined with the platinum complex Pt[P(tert-
butyl)3]2, the team found, the platinum atom bonds to and activates the Os–H bond. This unique bimetallic synergism leads to easy transfer of hydrogen to phen­ylacetylene’s carbon-carbon triple bond.

Adams has been one of the inorganic community’s most prolific volunteer organizers of scientific events. These include many symposia at ACS national and regional meetings, as well as the 1991 Gordon Research Conference on Inorganic Chemistry. In 1982, Adams organized and chaired the committee to create the ACS Award in Organometallic Chemistry. As Marks notes: “Anyone who has been involved in the fundraising and political aspects of organizing new awards knows this is a very significant achievement.”

Adams has served for 12 years as the U.S. regional editor for the Journal of Organometallic Chemistry (JOC) and more than 15 years as coeditor of the Journal of Cluster Science. Besides his yeoman’s duties as an editor of submitted papers, Adams has organized more than a dozen special issues for JOC, including a commemorative issue celebrating the 50th anniversary of the discovery of ferrocene.

Adams, 62, received a B.S. degree in chemistry in 1969 from Pennsylvania State University and a Ph.D. degree in 1973 from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He began his career with a two-year stint at the State University of New York, Buffalo, followed by 10 years at Yale University. He joined the faculty at the University of South Carolina in 1984.

Adams received the 1999 ACS Award in Inorganic Chemistry, a 1999 Alexander von Humboldt Senior Scientist Award, a 2000 Chemical Pioneer Award from the American Institute of Chemists, and the 2005 Henry J. Albert Award of the International Precious Metals Institute.

Adams will present the award address before the Division of Inorganic Chemistry.


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