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2020 Cope and Cope Scholar Award winners

Recipients are honored for contributions of major significance to chemistry

by Linda Wang
January 10, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 2


The following vignettes highlight the recipients of the 2020 Arthur C. Cope Award and the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Awards, administered by the American Chemical Society. Vignettes for the rest of the ACS National Award recipients were published in the Jan. 6 issue of C&EN. Recipients of the Cope Award and Cope Scholar Awards will be honored at a ceremony at the fall ACS national meeting in San Francisco, Aug. 16–20.

Arthur C. Cope Award: Dennis A. Dougherty

This is a photo of Dennis A. Dougherty.
Credit: Courtesy of Dennis A. Dougherty
Dennis A. Dougherty

Sponsor: Arthur C. Cope Fund

Citation: For establishing the cation-π interaction as a key noncovalent binding force in chemistry and biology

Current position: George Grant Hoag Professor of Chemistry, Norman Davidson Leadership Chair, Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, California Institute of Technology

Education: BS and MS, chemistry, Bucknell University; PhD, chemistry, Princeton University

Dougherty on what gets his creative juices flowing: “The most inspiring and rewarding aspect of being a professor at a place like Caltech is the collection of amazing young people—graduate students, postdocs, and undergraduates—that I get to work with every day. They are smart, creative, hard working, and just fun to be with. Whatever success I have had as a scientist is a direct result of the great work these young scholars have done.”

What his colleagues say: “From cyclophanes to neuroreceptors, Dougherty has applied the principles of physical organic chemistry to complex problems. He has produced new insights with far-reaching consequences.”—Jacqueline K. Barton, California Institute of Technology

Arthur C. Cope Scholar Awards

Sponsor: Arthur C. Cope Fund

Li Deng

This is a photo of Li Deng.
Credit: Courtesy of Li Deng
Li Deng

Citation: For his seminal contributions to the development of weak bonding asymmetric catalysis using novel modified cinchona alkaloids

Current position: XU Yiming Endowed Chair Professor of Chemistry and executive dean for the School of Science, Westlake University

Education: BS, Tsinghua University; MS, University of Wisconsin–Madison; PhD, Harvard University

What his colleagues say: “He is widely recognized as a leader whose pioneering work consistently brings new insights to both catalyst and reaction development.”—Phil Baran, Scripps Research

Todd L. Lowary

This is a photo of Todd L. Lowary.
Credit: Courtesy of Todd L. Lowary
Todd L. Lowary

Citation: For contributions to the development of novel methods for the synthesis of microbial carbohydrates and application of those methods to complex glycan synthesis and biology

Current position: Chemistry professor, University of Alberta; scientific director, Canadian Glycomics Network

Education: BA, chemistry, University of Montana; PhD, organic chemistry, University of Alberta

Lowary on his scientific role model: “Ole Hindsgaul taught me the importance of working on new things, to not be afraid of picking unconventional areas to study, and most importantly, that nothing was worth doing if it wasn’t fun. I’ve tried to impart that philosophy to my own coworkers over the course of my career.”

What his colleagues say: “Lowary’s many seminal contributions to his field span the whole gamut of organic chemistry, from synthesis to NMR and computational work and biology. He attacks the problem with a combination of ingenuity, creativity, determination, and single-mindedness to the point at which he is essentially peerless in the area.”—David Crich, University of Georgia

Ruben Martin

This is a photo of Rubén Martin Romo.
Credit: Courtesy of Rubén Martin Romo
Rubén Martin Romo

Citation: For his contributions on method development, particularly on nickel-catalyzed carboxylation reactions with carbon dioxide and functionalization of C–O bonds

Current position: Professor of chemistry, Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia

Education: BS and PhD, chemistry, University of Barcelona Martin on advice he gives to students: “Tenacity, curiosity, and discipline are essential for research. Nothing is so difficult that it cannot be accomplished with careful planning.”

What his colleagues say: “Ruben has a deep understanding of problems in synthesis and of the underlying mechanistic principles that govern the reactions that his lab is developing. I consider him to be the top young organic chemist in Spain, and he is one of the best young scientists working in synthesis and catalysis worldwide.”—John Montgomery, University of Michigan

Kevin D. Moeller

This is a photo of Kevin D. Moeller.
Credit: Courtesy of Kevin D. Moeller
Kevin D. Moeller

Citation: For seminal contributions to the field of organic chemistry through the exploration of new radical cation intermediates and the development of novel electrochemical methods

Current position: Chemistry professor, Washington University in St. Louis

Education: BA, chemistry, and PhD, organic chemistry, University of California, Santa Barbara

Moeller on his biggest research challenge: “We have been pursuing electrochemistry as a tool for synthesis for over 30 years. For the first 20 or more of those years, we did so against the backdrop of an at-times very skeptical synthetic community. That often led to unfavorable reviews of papers and grants. Fortunately, enough individuals in the community and program officers at the National Science Foundation had the foresight to see that the area, while not proven, was worthy of exploration.”

What his colleagues say: “As one of the most visible modern pioneers of synthetic organic electrochemistry, Kevin has proven himself a true visionary. An early proponent of the field, the Moeller group recognized the unique opportunities afforded by electrochemical mediation more than 2 decades before the current revival of the field. Indeed, it is only through his contributions that chemists today have the means to explore this powerful approach to redox chemistry.”—Phil Baran, Scripps Research

Hosea M. Nelson

This is a photo of Hosea Nelson.
Credit: Courtesy of Hosea Nelson
Hosea Nelson

Citation: For the catalytic generation of aryl and vinyl cations and their use in C–H functionalization and breakthroughs in organic structural elucidation by microcrystalline cryo-electron diffraction

Current position: Assistant professor of chemistry, University of California, Los Angeles

Education: BS, chemistry, University of California, Berkeley; PhD, organic chemistry, California Institute of Technology

Nelson on what gets his creative juices flowing: “Talking to other people about science. Whether with a student or with faculty colleagues, the best ideas sometimes come from interpersonal communication. There is something special about hearing ideas out loud—it can provide a unique perspective.”

What his colleagues say: “As a community, we often focus on expanding the scope, selectivity, or efficiency of a specific reaction. Hosea’s work is bigger than that; it addresses several knowledge gaps through completely novel means. His journey, creativity, and enthusiasm are a true inspiration to anyone who gets to know him.”—F. Dean Toste, University of California, Berkeley

Timothy R. Newhouse

This is a photo of Timothy R. Newhouse.
Credit: Courtesy of Timothy R. Newhouse
Timothy R. Newhouse

Citation: For contributions to synthetic organic chemistry, especially the development of step-efficient syntheses of terpenoid natural products

Current position: Associate professor of chemistry, Yale University

Education: BA, chemistry, Colby College; PhD, organic chemistry, Scripps Research

This is a photo of T. V. "Babu" RajanBabu.
Credit: Courtesy of T. V. "Babu" RajanBabu
T. V. "Babu" RajanBabu

Newhouse on what he hopes to accomplish in the next decade: “My group aims to define a set of strategies for applying computational methods to small-molecule synthesis design and to thereby show that computationally developed strategies can lead to step-efficient synthesis. The field of natural product total synthesis is booming with opportunities for innovation, and I anticipate important consequences for biomedical applications.”

What his colleagues say: “Newhouse publications already have a characteristic style and flair that is unique and original—he doesn’t chase fashions and is not a paper factory in that he focuses on high quality rather than quantity. Tim has tackled several ambitious problems and brought them through to completion in stunningly interesting ways. People want to read his papers because they are exciting and brimming with novelty.”—Phil Baran, Scripps Research

T. V. “Babu” RajanBabu

Citation: For research that has contributed important concepts to several areas of homogeneous catalysis, ranging from carbon feedstock conversion to polymer chemistry and enantioselective catalysis

Current position: Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor, Ohio State University

Education: MSc, chemistry, Indian Institute of Technology Madras; PhD, chemistry, Ohio State University

RajanBabu on the biggest challenge he’s had to overcome: “Several years ago we had set a goal to develop a general regio- and enantiodivergent ring opening of racemic three-membered heterocycles (epoxides and aziridines) to prepare highly valued 1,2-diamines, amino alcohols and β-amino acids. After many failures, we discovered novel bimetallic lanthanide catalysts capable of converting the individual enantiomers of a chiral aziridine to two regioisomeric products with almost enzyme-like specificity. Expanding the scope of this and similar reactions to other substrates continues to be a challenge.”

What his colleagues say: “One of the foremost goals of chemical synthesis is to develop practical catalytic processes that exploit basic chemical feedstocks in by-product-free C–C couplings to furnish value-added products. Babu’s pioneering work on hydrovinylation meets this challenge and represents only one of several fundamental contributions he has made.”—Michael J. Krische, University of Texas at Austin

John R. Reynolds

This is a photo of John R. Reynolds.
Credit: Courtesy of John R. Reynolds
John R. Reynolds

Citation: For seminal work in design and synthesis of π-conjugated molecules, oligomers, and polymers with targeted redox, transport, and optical properties for advanced organic electronic applications

Current position: Chemistry and biochemistry professor and materials science and engineering professor, Georgia Institute of Technology

Education: BS, chemistry, San Jose State University; MS and PhD, polymer science and engineering, University of Massachusetts

Reynolds on what gets his creative juices flowing: “Seeing my students grab hold of a project and move it into space that I had not seen it going towards, leading to new chemical principles or enhanced properties in materials. Their enthusiasm keeps me going, and it is great to see their scientific and personal growth as a project and their dissertation work proceed.”

What his colleagues say: “The conversion of light to electrical energy, and vice versa, demands a rare combination of fundamental insights in chemistry and sophisticated integration with application. Nobody does this better than John Reynolds and his team. They are also strongly committed to practicality: Reynolds’s molecules and synthetic methods are robust and scalable—a model for synthetic materials chemists in any field.”—M. G. Finn, Georgia Institute of Technology

Corey Stephenson

This is a photo of Corey Stephenson.
Credit: Courtesy of Corey Stephenson
Corey Stephenson

Citation: For his outstanding accomplishments in the area of organic synthesis, particularly his landmark contributions in photoredox catalysis

Current position: Chemistry professor, University of Michigan

Education: BSc, applied chemistry, University of Waterloo; PhD, chemistry, University of Pittsburgh

Stephenson on what he hopes to accomplish in the next decade: “Global challenges inspire us to design sustainable chemical solutions. We are driven to engage with diverse expertise to devise innovative synthetic strategies. We seek to develop redox catalysis processes that drive the production of pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, and renewable energy sources. Our 10-year goal is to increase the applicability of these transformations from discovery to implementation, with the aim of propagating the utility of redox processes across industry.”

What his colleagues say: “Professor Stephenson’s research involves the use of visible-light photoredox catalysis to address problems in organic synthesis as well as globally relevant issues like biomass conversion. His efforts have been focused on both developing more powerful and elegant complex molecule syntheses using this chemistry as well as developing novel organic transformations such as his recent carboamination reaction.”—Tomislav Rovis, Columbia University

Daniel J. Weix

This is a photo of Daniel J. Weix.
Credit: Courtesy of Daniel J. Weix
Daniel J. Weix

Citation: For the creative design of cross-electrophile coupling reactions and for mechanistic insight into these catalytic processes

Current position: Wayland E. Noland Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Education: BA, chemistry, Columbia University; PhD, organic chemistry, University of California, Berkeley

Weix on what gets his creative juices flowing: “Three things: talking chemistry with my students at the board, early-morning deep dives into the scientific literature, and vacations. Sketching out and exchanging ideas on a large surface with someone else has frequently led to aha moments. Following the thread of an idea through time is inspiring. Finally, time away from the lab provides the distance needed for new ideas.”

What his colleagues say: “Weix has already achieved what many dream to accomplish in organic chemistry: He discovered a new class of reactions that is being used widely, and within this class of reactions, he has discovered a wide range of subclasses.”—John Hartwig, University of California, Berkeley


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