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Synthesis

Nobel Laureate Signature Award For Graduate Education In Chemistry

Sponsored by Mallinckrodt Baker Inc.

by David J. Hanson
February 7, 2011 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 89, ISSUE 6

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Credit: Jingxue Chen
Du
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Credit: Jingxue Chen
Du

For achieving an extremely high level of productive research and maintaining excellent academic standards while tackling one of chemistry’s signature problems, Pingwu Du certainly deserves this award, along with his mentor, Richard Eisenberg, the Tracy H. Harris Professor of Chemistry at the University of Rochester (UR).

Eisenberg
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Credit: Marcia Eisenberg
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Credit: Marcia Eisenberg

The pair accomplished groundbreaking work in revealing the basic science behind the generation of hydrogen from water. Their research, which is related to artificial photosynthesis, focused on the development of molecule systems that use visible light to drive production of hydrogen from water.

Du’s accomplishments working as a graduate student with Eisenberg are described by colleagues as truly remarkable. He pursued his research with great motivation and enthusiasm, publishing 13 papers during his studies at UR and serving as the lead author for seven of them. Du and Eisenberg’s initial studies used platinum terpyridylacetylide complexes and visible light to generate hydrogen from aqueous protons and an electron donor. They then moved on to other platinum chromophores to increase efficiencies.

This path led to one of their most significant discoveries. During these experiments, Du and Eisenberg determined that colloids were forming in the platinum molecular hydrogen-generating systems and discovered in many cases that these colloids were the actual catalysts involved in the hydrogen-generating reaction.

More recent publications by this team described the discovery of a hydrogen photogeneration system that uses no noble metals or noble-metal-containing compounds at all. Instead, this system uses a strongly absorbing xanthene dye and a cobalt glyoximate hydrogen-evolving catalyst. Du’s work on this sensitizer/catalyst system and similar complexes has significantly advanced the field of solar photochemistry and opened new avenues for research.

A consequence of Du’s prodigious efforts has been substantial professional recognition quite early in his career, such as winning several competitive fellowships from UR. In 2009, Du received both a Young Investigators Award from the ACS Division of Inorganic Chemistry and the Chinese Government Award for Outstanding Students Abroad. Du is currently a postdoctoral associate in the lab of Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemistry professor Stephen J. Lippard.

Eisenberg sits in the top ranks of inorganic chemistry researchers for his broad range of work in areas such as organometallic chemistry, photochemistry, and catalysis. He is recognized as a model teacher whose many students and postdocs have gone on to successful careers of their own at universities or in industry. Eisenberg also has a record of active service to the chemical profession, in particular for his tenure as editor-in-chief of the journal Inorganic Chemistry since 2001. He has served in a number of leadership roles in the ACS Division of Inorganic Chemistry for which he was recognized with the 2003 ACS Award for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry.

A colleague describes the team of Du and Eisenberg as the perfect package—a record of important research and scholarship coupled with strong leadership through science. It is a model of how research should be done.

Du and Eisenberg will present the award address before the Division of Inorganic Chemistry.

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