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2021 ACS National Award winners—Part II

Recipients are honored for contributions of major significance to chemistry

January 2, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 1


This is a photo of Karl O. Christe.
Credit: Courtesy of Karl O. Christe
Karl O. Christe

M. Frederick Hawthorne Award in Main Group Inorganic Chemistry: Karl O. Christe

Sponsor: M. Frederick Hawthorne Award Endowment

Citation: For major and original contributions to main group chemistry

Current position: Research professor of chemistry, University of Southern California

Education: BS, MS, and PhD, chemistry, University of Stuttgart

What inspires Christe: “What gets my creative juices flowing are problems which are either deemed impossible or for others are too difficult to solve. My scientific role model is Leonardo da Vinci, a universal genius and the most creative scientist I can think of.”

What Christe’s colleagues say: “What impresses me most is not only the quantity of his output but its exceptional quality, creativity, and versatility. It has not been limited to one or two elements, but spans the entire range of inorganic main group elements, ranging from solid-propellant hydrogen gas generators for HF-DF lasers to noble gas chemistry. He has prepared many compounds considered either nonexistent or too difficult for synthesis. Karl has a unique talent to recognize solvable problems and to come up with elegant solutions.”—G. K. Surya Prakash, University of Southern California

Earle B. Barnes Award for Leadership in Chemical Research Management: Pat N. Confalone

This is a photo of Pat N. Confalone
Credit: Courtesy of Pat N. Confalone
Pat N. Confalone

Sponsor: Dow

Citation: For building and nurturing world-class R&D organizations in medicinal, agricultural, and process chemistry—driven by a lifelong passion for organic chemistry

Current position: Vice president, Global R&D, DuPont (retired)

Education: BS, chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; PhD, chemistry, Harvard University

Who is Confalone’s scientific role model: “I had the good fortune to both obtain my PhD and postdoc with Professor R. B. Woodward. My fondest memory is standing side by side in front of the UV spectrophotometer at 2 a.m., watching the pen slowly trace across the paper, confirming that a breakthrough had occurred in the vitamin B12 synthesis. His intense concentration on data, no matter how preliminary, was an important practice I employ to this day. I cannot imagine a better role model for a young synthetic organic chemist. Nothing beats the challenge of taking on the synthesis of a complex molecule, deploying a combination of science and art.”

What Confalone’s colleagues say: “One of the hallmarks of Confalone’s success is his undeniable ability to attract and retain top scientific talent. Pat can easily relate to the scientists in his organization because of his long record of success in the chemical industry. Confalone has a record of industrial R&D leadership success across several industries along with a record of ACS leadership which is unrivaled by his peers.”—Thomas M. Stevenson, FMC

ACS Award for Creative Invention: Scott R. Culler

Sponsor: ACS Corporation Associates

Citation: For his outstanding development of the first abrasives technology with uniform, precision-shaped ceramic grain, where each grain functions as a cutting tool

Current position: Retired corporate scientist, 3M Abrasive Systems Division

Education: BA, chemistry, College of Wooster; MS and PhD, macromolecular science and engineering, Case Western Reserve University

Culler on the biggest research challenge he’s had to overcome: “Developing a feasible manufacturing process to make precision-shaped grain for abrasives in the midst of a major recession without capital to buy new process equipment. We had to demonstrate a viable manufacturing process by borrowing equipment from our corporate process labs and convince management to let us run experiments on other pilot plant lines that were never intended to be used with sol gel ceramic precursor materials. In the end it really came down to not accepting ‘no’ as the final answer and having the personal relationships and trust from line operators to demonstrate that the proposed experiments were not crazy notions but were both low risk and feasible solutions.”

What Culler’s colleagues say: “His extraordinary leadership in precision-shaped grain (PSG) technology development, computational-driven design, intellectual property strategy, and application mapping has created a revolutionary abrasive platform, marrying sol gel ceramics with microreplication. 3M’s PSG technology platform makes possible numerous high-performance, coated, nonwoven, microstructured, and portable-bonded and precision-bonded abrasives. Such abrasives have applications in castings/forgings, automotive, aerospace, metal fabrication, wood working, marine, machinery, and more.”—Betty Mei, 3M Abrasive Systems Division

Henry H. Storch Award in Energy Chemistry: Harry W. Deckman

This is a photo of Harry W. Deckman
Credit: Courtesy of Harry W. Deckman
Harry W. Deckman

Sponsor: Henry H. Storch Endowment

Citation: For contributions to broaden the energy options available to society, address the challenges of atmospheric carbon dioxide, and improve the energy efficiency of industrial separations

Current position: Senior scientific advisor, ExxonMobil Research & Engineering

Education: BS, physics, Case Institute of Technology; PhD, physics, Iowa State University

Deckman on the biggest research challenge he’s had to overcome: “Far and away the most important challenge for anyone working on energy research is the dual energy challenge. This has been expressed as finding a way to overcome the problem of increasing energy supply to improve the living standard of a significant fraction of the world’s population while mitigating climate change. Obviously this will not be overcome by one person, but it is what every energy researcher should focus on.”

What Deckman’s colleagues say: “Harry is a brilliant scientist, with a breadth of knowledge in physics, chemistry, and chemical engineering that is greater than anyone I have worked with or known. That includes inorganic chemistry associated with materials for the solar energy industry early in his career, and later, materials used for adsorption and membrane separation processes.”—Ronald Chance, Global Thermostat and Georgia Institute of Technology

ACS Award for Creative Work in Synthetic Organic Chemistry: Jonathan A. Ellman

This is a photo of Jonathan A. Ellman
Credit: Courtesy of Jonathan A. Ellman
Jonathan A. Ellman

Sponsor: MilliporeSigma

Citation: For inventing the landmark tert-butanesulfinamide approach to stereoselective synthesis, pioneering C-H bond functionalization reactions, and for defining the field of combinatorial small molecule synthesis

Current position: Eugene Higgins Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Pharmacology, Yale University

Education: BS, chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; PhD, organic chemistry, Harvard University

Who are Ellman’s scientific role models: “K. Barry Sharpless and Peter G. Schultz, despite having very different research programs, are two of my scientific role models due to common underlying themes with respect to how they carry out research. Both have performed highly innovative research to achieve conceptual advances that have enabled practical and extensively used applications. Repeatedly, each has also been unafraid to pursue research directions and approaches that at the outset were contrary to accepted dogma.”

What Ellman’s colleagues say: “Ellman is a stellar scientist who defies singular characterizations. His tert-butanesulfinamide approach to stereoselective synthesis is clearly one of the dominant methods for the asymmetric synthesis of amines in the pharmaceutical industry today. He is also a superb organometallic chemist, with signature contributions in the ‘Holy Grail’ activity of carbon-hydrogen bond activation and functionalization. All of this followed his unquestionably pioneering work grounding combinatorial small molecule synthesis right out of the starting gate as an assistant professor. Ellman is a treasure in the field of synthetic organic chemistry.”—Scott. J. Miller, Yale University

Award for Volunteer Service to the American Chemical Society: Mary K. Engelman

This is a photo of Mary K. Engelman.
Credit: Courtesy of Mary K. Engelman
Mary K. Engelman

Sponsor: ACS

Citation: For exemplifying the spirit of volunteerism through her efforts to increase public awareness of chemistry and to promote science to students of all ages

Current position: Retired from Eastman Chemical

Education: AS, chemical technology, Northeast State Community College; BS, interdisciplinary studies, Liberty University

Engelman on what drives her passion for volunteering: “Volunteering provides me a sense of accomplishment. First, I love to give back to the next generation of professionals. Second, I get to develop skills that you cannot optimize in a classroom. We learn about communication, problem solving, leadership, etc. in a classroom. However, to optimize the skills, you must put these skills to practice. Volunteering provides a person with the opportunity to develop these types of skills. I enjoy working as a team member or as a leader on a team to problem solve or develop a new process. I volunteer because it feels right to me.”

What Engelman’s colleagues say: “It is difficult to quantify the multitude of ways the ACS has benefited from Mary’s involvement at every level. Mary has provided leadership wherever she has served and done so willingly, and she has become a role model for others who want to be active in their professional society.”—Dawn Mason, Eastman Chemical

Peter Debye Award in Physical Chemistry: Michael D. Fayer

This is a photo of Michael David Fayer
Credit: Courtesy of Michael David Fayer
Michael David Fayer

Sponsor: DuPont

Citation: For pioneering work on the dynamics, interactions, and structures of complex liquids through the development and application of ultrafast two-dimensional infrared spectroscopy

Current position: David Mulvane Ehrsam and Edward Curtis Franklin Professor of Chemistry, Stanford University

Education: BS, chemistry, and PhD, chemistry, University of California, Berkeley

Fayer on his biggest research challenge: “The biggest challenge that I and other researchers have had to deal with for the last several decades is the reduction in understanding of and appreciation for fundamental research. The basic research of today serves as a foundation for the technological advances that are important to humanity 20 years from now. Science, overly directed to meet immediate needs, trades the future for short-term gains.”

What Fayer’s colleagues say: “Fayer has been a pioneer and has driven the field of nonlinear optical spectroscopy and its applications to major problems of complex molecular systems. He has made major contributions to the development of coherent multidimensional spectroscopy techniques for the studies of molecular systems. His work, primarily on dynamics and intermolecular interactions in molecular condensed matter systems, has changed the way we study and think about complex organic matter.”—Shaul Mukamel, University of California, Irvine

ACS Award for Affordable Green Chemistry: Kerry Gilmore, Peter H. Seeberger, and Andreas Seidel-Morgenstern

Sponsor: Dow, endowed by Rohm and Haas

Citation: For their outstanding success in developing continuous chemical processes to produce artemisinin combination therapies (ACTs), important malaria medications, from plant waste material, air, and light

What their colleagues say: “The team over the past 6 years has systematically developed an affordable and scalable synthetic process for the preparation of artemisinin and artemisinin derivatives that are the key components in the most powerful malaria drugs. The efficiency of the method is unparalleled and is significantly cheaper than current production methods. This process is green, it is affordable, and it is already being implemented on a large scale with significant impact.”—Steven Ley, University of Cambridge

Kerry Gilmore

Current position: Assistant professor of chemistry, University of Connecticut

Education: BS, biology, and BS, chemistry, Roger Williams University; PhD, organic chemistry, Florida State University

Gilmore on his scientific role model: “I’ve always really admired Enrico Fermi. He was a truly brilliant scientist who raced into a completely unknown realm of science. He is also a great reminder that we do not work in a vacuum, and research can have very real-world applications and consequences. The things we develop should aim towards the improvement of conditions, situations, and lives of people as well as the advancement of our scientific understanding and capabilities.”

Peter H. Seeberger

This is a photo of Peter Seeberger
Credit: Courtesy of Peter Seeberger
Peter Seeberger

Current position: Managing director, Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces

Education: Vordiplom, chemistry, Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen–Nurenberg; PhD, biochemistry, University of Colorado Boulder

Seeberger on the biggest research challenge he’s had to overcome: “The biggest challenge is not in research but in applying the scientific breakthroughs in ‘real life’ if there is not a major financial reward but ‘only’ health or environmental benefits.”

Andreas Seidel-Morgenstern

This is a photo of Andreas Seidel-Morgenstern
Credit: Courtesy of Andreas Seidel-Morgenstern
Andreas Seidel-Morgenstern

Current position: Director, Max Planck Institute for Dynamics of Complex Technical Systems

Education: Diploma, chemical engineering, Technical University Leuna-Merseburg; Ing, Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Academy of Sciences of the German Democratic Republic

Seidel-Morgenstern on what gets his creative juices flowing: “I believe that I am most creative in and after the discussions with my early-career researchers. Their curious and challenging questions always force me to dig deeper into our current scientific problems and to identify new ones. I am very grateful that I had and still have the opportunity to work with so many amazingly bright young people.”

ACS Award in the Chemistry of Materials: Yury Gogotsi

This is a photo of Yury Gogotsi
Credit: Courtesy of Yury Gogotsi
Yury Gogotsi

Sponsor: DuPont

Citation: For groundbreaking research in the synthesis of novel classes of carbon-based nanomaterials and the elucidation of mechanisms involved in capacitive energy storage

Current position: Charles T. and Ruth M. Bach Distinguished University Professor, and founding director, A.J. Drexel Nanomaterials Institute, Drexel University

Education: MS, metallurgy, PhD, physical chemistry, Kiev Polytechnic Institute; DSc, materials engineering, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine


Gogotsi on the biggest research challenges he has overcome: “Research challenges are fun to overcome. When I identify a complex research problem, I feel excited. I am motivated to start looking for a solution. We solved many difficult problems, like observing liquid water inside carbon nanotubes, explaining the mechanism of charge storage in subnanometer pores, controlling pore size in carbons with Angstrom accuracy, delaminating MXenes into single-layer sheets, or improving environmental stability of colloidal Ti3C2 solution from days to months. Some other problems have been keeping me busy for years, but I’ve not cracked them yet—this only makes them more attractive.”

What Gogotsi’s colleagues say: “Yury has been a true leader in the development and use of nanostructured carbons and carbides, with particularly significant contributions in the field of materials for electrochemical energy storage. His discovery of more than a dozen 2-D carbides (MXenes) and their extremely high capacitance, as well as explanation of the intercalation pseudocapacitive storage mechanism in MXenes, led to a new wave of interest to energy storage in two-dimensional materials beyond graphene.”—M. Stanley Whittingham, Binghamton University

ACS Award for Creative Advances in Environmental Science and Technology: Allen H. Goldstein

This is a photo of Allen H. Goldstein
Credit: Courtesy of Allen H. Goldstein
Allen H. Goldstein

Sponsor: Aerodyne and the ACS Division of Environmental Chemistry

Citation: For groundbreaking research on the chemistry and emissions of natural and anthropogenic trace gases and aerosols in the atmosphere

Current position: Professor of atmospheric chemistry, University of California, Berkeley

Education: BA, politics, and BS, chemistry, University of California, Santa Cruz; MA, chemistry, and PhD, chemistry, Harvard University

Goldstein on what he hopes to accomplish in the next decade: “I hope that in the coming decade our society will enable massive transformation from fossil fuels towards renewable energy, with accompanying reductions in air pollution. As an atmospheric chemist, I look forward to leading research on how our atmosphere and earth systems respond. For example, the increasing adoption of electric vehicles is a game changer, and I look forward to documenting the effects on urban air pollution and global climate change.”

What Goldstein’s colleagues say: “Goldstein’s creativity in the development of environmental science and technology research methods over the past three decades has dramatically transformed our capabilities for quantifying and mitigating air pollutants that pose serious health risks. Dr. Goldstein is perhaps best known for his work developing novel approaches for characterizing secondary organic aerosol. His work has led to a breakthrough in our understanding of the sources and production mechanisms of these particles and enabled the development of effective pollution control strategies.”—Alex Guenther, University of California, Irvine

ACS Award in Surface Chemistry: Vicki H. Grassian

This is a photo of Vicki H. Grassian
Credit: Courtesy of Vicki H. Grassian
Vicki H. Grassian

Sponsor: Procter and Gamble

Citation: For pioneering research, teaching, and service contributions to the surface chemistry of environmental interfaces, including aerosols, nanomaterials, and indoor surfaces, and provide leadership in this field

Current position: Distinguished Professor and Distinguished Chair of Physical Chemistry; Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Department of Nanoengineering; and Scripps Institution of Oceanography; University of California San Diego

Education: BS, chemistry, University at Albany; MS, chemistry, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; PhD, chemistry, University of California, Berkeley

Grassian on what gets her creative juices flowing: “Tackling chemically complex problems. In particular, I really like to think about the chemistry of complex environmental interfaces. What happens is that I hear about an important problem that is poorly understood and it is clear that molecular-based studies can provide enormous insights. Immediately I start thinking about how my research group can fill that knowledge gap.”

What Grassian’s colleagues say: “Grassian has been a leader in molecular-level studies of environmental interfaces essentially since the field began. This includes leading reactivity studies of oxide and carbonate surfaces, including nanoparticles, with atmospheric gases under conditions of ambient temperature and relative humidity, a regime largely ignored but of utmost importance in a wide range of fields.”—Charles Campbell, University of Washington

ACS Award in Chromatography: David S. Hage

This is a photo of David S. Hage
Credit: Courtesy of David S. Hage
David S. Hage

Sponsor: MilliporeSigma

Citation: For his outstanding accomplishments in the theory, development, and use of high-performance affinity chromatography and related methods for separations, chemical analysis, and biomolecular interaction studies

Current position: James Hewett University Professor of Chemistry, University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Education: BS, biology and chemistry, University of Wisconsin; PhD, analytical chemistry, Iowa State University

Hage on what gets his creative juices flowing: “I like to sit in a park with a notebook and jot down ideas as I look around me. The complexity and beauty of nature, from birds and insects to plants, have always been an inspiration to me and prompt me to learn more about how it all works. I then try and translate some of that curiosity and energy into looking at a specific problem, or its solution, from a new point of view.”

What Hage’s colleagues say: “I have personally known David Hage for his entire career and I consider him to be at the forefront of his profession and I applaud his innovative contributions in different fields of chromatography and clinical chemistry. His work is creative and novel thus providing giant contributions to both fields.”—Xiao Cheng Zeng, University of Nebraska–Lincoln

George A. Olah Award in Hydrocarbon or Petroleum Chemistry: Michael M. Haley

This is a photo of Michael M. Haley
Credit: Courtesy of Michael M. Haley
Michael M. Haley

Sponsor: George A. Olah Award Endowment

Citation: For groundbreaking work on the synthesis and study of carbon-rich/pi-electron-rich hydrocarbons related to the nonnatural carbon allotropes graphyne and graphdiyne

Current position: Richard M. and Patricia H. Noyes Professor of Chemistry, University of Oregon

Education: BA, MA, and PhD, chemistry, Rice University

Haley on what gets his creative juices flowing: “When we secure an X-ray structure of a new molecule. The email from our staff crystallographer announcing a new structure always grabs and garners my attention. Did we correctly guess the outcome, or did Mother Nature say, nope, I choose something else as the outcome? The latter is especially exciting, as it poses the question as to why did we guess incorrectly? What chemically should we have considered when trying to answer the question? On top of that, it is generally a surefire way to get me to run into the lab and high-five the student for the structure (although COVID-19 restrictions mean instead an elbow bump or two).”

What Haley’s colleagues say: “Among organic chemists engaged in the synthesis, chemistry, and properties of novel hydrocarbons, Professor Haley is one of the most admired and respected scientists worldwide.”—Lawrence Scott, Boston College and the University of Nevada, Reno

ACS Award in Theoretical Chemistry: Sharon Hammes-Schiffer

This is a photo of Sharon Hammes-Schiffer
Credit: Courtesy of Sharon Hammes-Schiffer
Sharon Hammes-Schiffer

Sponsor: ACS Division of Physical Chemistry

Citation: For her groundbreaking advances in the quantum mechanical treatment of nuclear motion and her definitive applications to proton transfer and proton-coupled electron transfer (PCET)

Current position: John Gamble Kirkwood Professor of Chemistry, Yale University

Education: BA, chemistry, Princeton University; PhD, chemistry, Stanford University

Hammes-Schiffer on what she hopes to accomplish in the next decade: “Over the years, I have pushed myself to attack problems that are outside my comfort zone, even though entering a new field can be daunting. As a theorist, I am always looking for inspiration from experiments. Today I am especially interested in exploring heterogeneous proton-coupled electron transfer, microkinetic modeling of complex processes, and nonequilibrium coupled nuclear-electronic dynamics. For the future, I want to keep an open mind and follow the exciting science wherever it takes me.”

What Hammes-Schiffer’s colleagues say: “Sharon Hammes-Schiffer has made important and creative advances to theoretical chemistry methodology. The theoretical approaches that she has pioneered are becoming essential tools in the computational modeling of the behavior of chemical and biological systems. Her accomplishments position her as the leading theorist addressing the crucial area of PCET, both in biochemical and solution environments.”—John Tully, Yale University


This story was updated on Jan. 12, 2021, to correct Pat N. Confalone's affiliation. He was a vice president at DuPont, not Dow.


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