Sponsored by the Francis P. Garvan-John M. Olin Medal Endowment
Sue B. Clark’s colleagues say she embodies the spirit of the Garvan-Olin Medal, which recognizes distinguished service to chemistry by women chemists. Clark, who is Regents Professor of Chemistry at Washington State University (WSU), Pullman, “is an outstanding leader in nuclear and radiochemistry, and her achievements to promote and increase the participation of women in science are truly impressive,” says Heino Nitsche, a chemistry professor at the University of California, Berkeley. “I could not think of a more deserving person for this award.”
Clark, 50, has garnered international recognition for her work on the environmental chemistry of actinides, such as uranium and plutonium, and for the development of analytical methods to measure these radioactive elements in environmental samples. Her work has had applications in radioactive waste management, nuclear safeguards, and nuclear forensics.
In July 2011, President Barack Obama appointed Clark to the U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, which advises Congress and the secretary of energy on the technical aspects of the management and disposal of the nation’s high-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel.
While Clark is making a difference around the world, her colleagues say she has made an impact on a more personal level.
“She has been a mentor, role model, and advocate for women in science,” says Darleane C. Hoffman, an expert in nuclear chemistry who is a professor at UC Berkeley and faculty senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Clark has “worked tirelessly to encourage women she met at American Chemical Society meetings, national laboratories, and elsewhere to apply for vacant positions at WSU,” Hoffman adds. “The resultant increase in the number of women in the applicant pool translated into more women hired into faculty positions.”
“Encouraging women and minorities to seek academic opportunities and helping them to overcome the barriers are responsibilities of all chemists,” Clark says. “I am a firm believer that changing the face of the academic faculty will eventually balance the demographics of our discipline.”
Clark joined WSU Pullman as an assistant professor of chemistry in 1996. She received tenure in 2000 and served as chair of the chemistry department from 2004 to 2007. She has also served as interim dean of the College of Sciences and interim vice chancellor for academic affairs at WSU’s Tri-Cities campus. In 2011, Clark was promoted to the university’s highest faculty rank of Regents Professor.
Clark earned a B.S. degree in chemistry from Lander College, in Greenwood, S.C., in 1984, and a Ph.D. in inorganic and radiochemistry from Florida State University, Tallahassee, in 1989. Later that year, she started her career as a senior scientist in the interim waste technology division of Westinghouse Savannah River Laboratory. From 1992 to 1996, she was a research ecologist at the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory.
ACS named Clark a fellow in 2010 in recognition of her contributions to science and her service to the society. From 2001 to 2006, Clark directed the ACS Division of Nuclear Chemistry & Technology’s Summer School in Nuclear & Radiochemistry, a six-week program for undergraduate students sponsored by the division and funded by the Department of Energy.
Clark will present the award address before the ACS Division of Nuclear Chemistry & Technology.