Issue Date: April 4, 2011
Michelle M. Millar
Michelle M. Millar, 64, a chemistry professor at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, died on Feb. 13 from an apparent heart attack.
Millar obtained her bachelor’s degree in 1968 from the University of California, Los Angeles, and her Ph.D. in 1975 from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she worked with Richard H. Holm. She carried out postdoctoral research with F. Albert Cotton at Texas A&M University and Earl L. Muetterties at Cornell University. After seven years on the faculty of New York University, she moved to Stony Brook in 1985.
Millar was a premier synthetic inorganic chemist. She specialized in the design and synthesis of new transition-metal complexes as models for metalloenzymes. She recognized that much of the unusual metal chemistry that takes place inside proteins is possible because the proteins serve as sterically congested ligands, controlling access to the reactive metal centers. In recent years, her group has concentrated on analogs for the nickel-containing enzyme hydrogenase that catalyzes the technologically important reaction 2H+ + 2e– = H2.
Millar loved teaching and her chemistry demonstrations included drinking liquid nitrogen and breathing helium.
When Millar started graduate school in 1968, there were essentially no women chemistry professors at research universities in the U.S. Her greatest satisfaction was that, along with other women of her generation, she helped break down the barriers that had limited the career opportunities for women chemists. She joined ACS in 1974.
Millar is survived by her husband, Stephen A. Koch.
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