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Francis P. Garvan-John M. Olin Medal: Barbara J. Finlayson-Pitts

by Linda Wang
January 2, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 1

Barbara J. Finlayson-Pitts
Credit: Courtesy of Barbara Finlayson-Pitts

Photo of Barbara J. Finlayson-Pitts.
Credit: Courtesy of Barbara Finlayson-Pitts

Sponsor: Francis P. Garvan-John M. Olin Medal Endowment

Citation: For her dedication to serving the chemical research community and for her inspirational work on interpreting science for the general public.

Current position: UCI Distinguished Professor and director of the AirUCI Institute, University of California, Irvine

Education: B.Sc., chemistry, Trent University; M.S., chemistry, University of California, Riverside; Ph.D., chemistry, University of California, Riverside

Finlayson-Pitts on what gets her ­creative juices flowing: “Getting some completely unexpected experimental results in the lab, thinking it might be artifacts but, after ruling that out with ­additional experiments, figuring out that the results are telling you about exciting new science. A key part of this has been wonderful collaborations with theorists, scientists, and engineers in other fields who were very patient in entertaining my crazy ideas and diving in to probe them in different ways. And a really essential part is the talented, smart, articulate, and dedicated group of students, postdocs, and researchers in my group over many years who have learned not to run screaming when I say, ‘This should be an easy experiment,’ which often ends up leading us into months or years of new puzzles and directions.”

What her colleagues say: “In the field of atmospheric chemistry, she is at the very top, in terms of contributions, impact, and creativity, worldwide. She has inspired a generation of young female chemists to go far and to be leaders. Perhaps most importantly, she has advanced a field of applied chemistry by working on the fundamentals, and making sure that what we know, and our pursuit of predictability in our science, is grounded in firm fundamental understanding of the nature of chemical transformations.”—Paul Shepson, Purdue University



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