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2021 ACS National Award winners—Part III

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 Craig Hawker.
Credit: Courtesy of Craig Hawker
Craig Hawker

Kathryn C. Hach Award for Entrepreneurial Success: Craig J. Hawker

Sponsor: Kathryn C. Hach Award Fund

Citation: In recognition of Dr. Hawker’s innovative leadership in creating, developing, and commercializing revolutionary polymer-based therapeutics and personal-care products through multiple successful start-up companies

Current position: Clarke Professor, University of California, Santa Barbara

Education: BSc, chemistry, University of Queensland; PhD, University of Cambridge

Hawker on what gets his creative juices flowing: “I find that strong collaborations make research much more fun and rewarding. It is also an excellent strategy for venturing into new fields, where my chemical knowledge and viewpoint can lead to a different perspective on big problems.”

What Hawker’s colleagues say: “Craig is an outstanding entrepreneur and scholar who has achieved stunning success in translating chemical discoveries into commercial products, impacting people worldwide in areas ranging from pharmaceuticals to personal care.”—Karen L. Wooley, Texas A&M University

ACS Award in Industrial Chemistry: David Hays

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

Sponsor: ACS Division of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry

Citation: For discovering fundamentally new molecules and materials and mastering their complex manufacturing processes across diverse markets including pharmaceuticals, optical films, specialty adhesives, and release liners

Current position: Staff scientist, 3M

Education: BS, chemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign; PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Hays on what he hopes to accomplish in the next decade: “Industrial chemists, with all of the resources available to us, are really poised to help address some of the most important problems facing society in the coming decades relating to energy, transportation, and separations technologies. A continued, relentless drive towards more efficient manufacturing processes with reduced waste and with increasing degrees of sustainability is critical.”

What Hays’s colleagues say: “David has a unique perspective on polymer chemistry owing to his background as a synthetic chemist. He creatively applies physical organic chemistry principles to create new opportunities in polymer chemistry with an eye toward manufacturing and sustainability.”—Dipannita Kalyani, Merck & Co.

ACS Award for Computers in Chemical and Pharmaceutical Research: M. Katharine Holloway

This is a photo of M. Katharine Holloway
Credit: Courtesy of M. Katharine Holloway
M. Katharine Holloway

Sponsor: ACS Division of Computers in Chemistry

Citation: For the computer-aided design of novel lifesaving medicines, particularly HIV and HCV protease inhibitors for the treatment of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C

Current position: Principal scientist, Gfree Bio

Education: BS, chemistry and French, University of Southern Mississippi; PhD, theoretical organic chemistry, University of Texas at Austin

Holloway on her accomplishments: “Because of my design role, I was included on the patent for the HIV protease inhibitor indinavir and gained some notoriety as the lone woman among five chemistry co-inventors. At that time, women were not well represented in the physical sciences. Fortunately, that is changing. The number of women in computational chemistry has risen steadily during the course of my career. As ‘a rising tide lifts all boats,’ a rising tide of women scientists is having a significant impact.”

What Holloway’s colleagues say: “Kate has had a remarkable career at Merck and in the field of computational chemistry. Her contributions to the field of computational chemistry and drug discovery, as well as marketed drugs are second to none in the industry. Many of us enter the pharmaceutical industry to have an impact on human health; Kate has had an impact on four marketed drugs—a standout accomplishment among computational chemists. Her work on Crixivan at the peak of the AIDS outbreak was critical for the survival of many individuals. Kate’s contributions to the HCV protease field are manifest in Vanihep and Grazoprevir which have helped move HCV into the curable category of diseases. Kate’s early studies as a part of the HIV integrase team laid the foundations for Isentress.”—J. Chris Culberson, Workflow Informatics

Nakanishi Award: Mei Hong

This is a photo of Mei Hong
Credit: Courtesy of Mei Hong
Mei Hong

Sponsor: Nakanishi Prize Endowment

Citation: By developing and applying advanced techniques of solid-state NMR, Professor Hong has discovered important features of membrane channels, amyloid proteins, and plant cell walls.

Current position: Professor of chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Education: Studied economics, Fudan University; BA, chemistry, Mount Holyoke College; PhD, chemistry, University of California, Berkeley

What Hong hopes to accomplish in the next decade: “Many things! I’d love to find out how the proteins I now study in vitro change their structures and dynamics in the cell or the virus membrane. I am fascinated by biomolecular complexes of all sorts, such as protein-ligand complexes, protein-protein complexes, and protein-carbohydrate complexes. I would like to develop better NMR methods to study such systems. And I’d like to make these methods as simple and robust as possible, so that not only NMR spectroscopists but also biologists can apply them, without spending years studying quantum mechanics first.”

What Hong’s colleagues say: “Professor Hong has built productive collaborations with a variety of biologists and biochemists, lending her expertise and innovations in ssNMR to provide biological insights that would be difficult to obtain by any other route. . . . As a biologist I can attest that [Hong’s work] has profoundly influenced my perspective of wall structure and that of many of my cell wall colleagues. Add to this her additional extensive ssNMR work on influenza M2 proton channels, membrane lipid-protein binding interactions, and amyloid proteins. She has certainly extended ssNMR spectroscopy in many ways for insights into numerous biological phenomena.”—Daniel Cosgrove, Pennsylvania State University

Roger Adams Award in Organic Chemistry: Kendall N. Houk

This is a photo of Kendall N. Houk
Credit: Courtesy of Kendall N. Houk
Kendall N. Houk

Sponsor: Organic Reactions Inc. and Organic Syntheses Inc.

Citation: Houk fused quantum theory into the heart of organic chemistry by experiments and computations, lucid models to understand reactivity, and collaborations with experimentalists.

Current position: Professor, Saul Winstein Research Chair in Organic Chemistry, University of California, Los Angeles

Education: AB, MS, and PhD, chemistry, Harvard University

What gets Houk’s creative juices flowing: “I love to work with my students and postdocs to figure out what controls chemical reactivity and selectivity. I feel palpable tingles of excitement through and through whenever we come up with something new, a phenomenon that we can explain to others, a discovery that will have an impact on chemistry and chemists of the future. I publish a lot of papers because I am so eager to tell the world about our discoveries!”

What Houk’s colleagues say: “Kendall Houk is an outstanding example of a scientist who fuses computations with experiment in organic chemistry. His impact has touched every area of chemical and biological reactivity and selectivity as an authority who organic chemists often call upon to understand and predict their chemistry. His work exemplifies the growth of computational chemistry and is a paragon for collaborations between theoreticians and experimentalists.”—Neil K. Garg, University of California, Los Angeles

ACS Award in Separations Science and Technology: James W. Jorgenson

This is a photo of James W. Jorgenson
Credit: Courtesy of James W. Jorgenson
James W. Jorgenson

Sponsor: Waters

Citation: For development of capillary electrophoresis, ultrahigh pressure liquid chromatography, and working two-dimensional separations and application to complex mixture analysis

Current position: William Rand Kenan Jr. Professor of Chemistry Emeritus, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Education: BS, chemistry, Northern Illinois University; PhD, chemistry, Indiana University

What gets his creative juices flowing: “The most rewarding thing for me is working with a group of talented students brainstorming a new research idea. There is nothing more exciting than bouncing ideas back-and-forth as you set out to design completely new equipment and devices while trying to anticipate difficulties that may arise with untested designs. This stage of a project pushes the research group to grow far beyond their comfort zone.”

What Jorgenson’s colleagues say: “Jorgenson’s research efforts have had a huge impact on chemical measurement science and on the way that chemical and biological experimentation is implemented around the world. Many of the chemical separation techniques that he developed are widely used in industry, particularly in biotechnology and pharmaceutical research. Capillary gel electrophoresis is the technique utilized for sizing DNA fragments generated in gene/protein engineering developments. His efforts in developing multidimensional separations provided the basis for further development of techniques for analyzing proteins that are currently utilized in proteomics research.”—J. Michael Ramsey, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

ACS Award for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry: Kenneth D. Karlin

This is a photo of Kenneth D. Karlin
Credit: Courtesy of Kenneth D. Karlin
Kenneth D. Karlin

Sponsor: Strem Chemicals

Citation: For groundbreaking copper- and heme-dioxygen chemistry research and for a career encompassing service to the bioinorganic community, the ACS, and its Division of Inorganic Chemistry

Current position: Ira Remsen Chair in Chemistry and professor, Johns Hopkins University

Education: BS, chemistry, Stanford University; PhD, chemistry, Columbia University

What gets his creative juices flowing: “After learning of a new natural or biological reactive system which exhibits unique reactivity, designing and creating chemical systems whose study will elucidate new and likely important fundamental insights.”

What Karlin’s colleagues say: “A striking Karlin advance was the characterization of the first monooxygenase model system where copper(I)/dioxygen reactivity led to a dicopper-dioxygen intermediate, which then performed hydrocarbon hydroxylation, chemistry critical in nature and in catalysis. The ­importance and potential of this chemistry attracted a great deal of interest, both in experimentation with analogues and computational analyses. As part of this study, Karlin discovered a mechanistic first, copper NIH-shift chemistry.”—Edward I. Solomon, Stanford University

James T. Grady–James H. Stack Award for Interpreting Chemistry for the Public: Sam Kean

This is a photo of Sam Kean
Credit: Courtesy of Sam Kean
Sam Kean

Sponsor: ACS

Citation: For his books, public speaking, and podcast, which have helped to increase appreciation for chemistry

Current position: Author of several books, including The Disappearing Spoon and The Bastard Brigade; creator and host of The Disappearing Spoon podcast

Education: BS, physics, BA, English literature, University of Minnesota; MA, library science, Catholic University of America

Kean on what gets his creative juices flowing: “When I start to see a real story take shape as I’m doing ­research: I can envision a dramatic opening scene, the twists and turns along the way, the heroes and villains emerging, and how everything is going to build to an ending. Research can be dry sometimes, but at some point while I’m accumulating more and more details, it all clicks. It’s like a phase shift: an amorphous mass has crystallized into a real, human story.”

What Kean’s colleagues say: “Never have I encountered Sam’s equal in his ability to write enchanting and accessible science. His books hold appeal to experts and armchair readers alike, and never does he sacrifice depth for easier consumption, always doing justice to the complexity of the principles he explains with clarity and a remarkably steady hand. The Disappearing Spoon, The Violinist’s Thumb, The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons, and Caesar’s Last Breath make science cool and discussable.”—John Parsley, Dutton

ACS Award in Pure Chemistry: Rebekka S. Klausen

This is a photo of Rebekka S. Klausen
Credit: Courtesy of Rebekka S. Klausen
Rebekka S. Klausen

Sponsor: Alpha Chi Sigma Fraternity and the Alpha Chi Sigma Educational Foundation

Citation: For transformative achievements in the synthesis of functional silicon-based polymers inaccessible from traditional feedstocks and reaction mechanisms

Current position: Second Decade Society Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry, Johns Hopkins University

Education: BS, chemistry, Boston College; PhD, chemistry, Harvard University

Klausen on what gets her creative juices flowing: “In my career, I’ve changed fields a few times. Engaging with unfamiliar literature and new techniques sparks my curiosity and creativity. I also found that becoming a parent made me a more creative scientist. Balancing different commitments means that I ­prioritize the most important experiments. What challenges do I most want to solve? What experiments most efficiently answer the questions I want to ask?”

What Klausen’s colleagues say: “Professor Klausen’s work on polysilane chemistry is absolutely groundbreaking not only from a nanoscience viewpoint, but due to the smashing of preconceived notions of silicon chemistry, silicon can finally be viewed as much more than a poor relative of carbon in terms of synthetic chemistry. She has shaken up the world by showing that one can truly synthesize precise and controlled silicon-based molecules, and by extension, silicon nanomaterials.”—Jillian Buriak, University of Alberta

ACS Award for Creative Work in Fluorine Chemistry: Beate Koksch

This is a photo of Beate Koksch
Credit: Courtesy of Beate Koksch
Beate Koksch

Sponsor: Arkema

Citation: For her outstanding contributions to fluorine chemistry at the interface of chemistry, biology, as well as protein science and engineering with exceptional originality and creativity

Current position: Professor of organic chemistry and natural product chemistry, Freie Universität Berlin

Education: Diploma, chemistry, Leipzig University; PhD, biochemistry, Leipzig University

Koksch on what gets her creative juices flowing: “I have always been fascinated by how nature builds up organic matter and what forces it uses to organize molecules. Interestingly, the most stable constructions arise especially when molecules with complementary functionalities or properties interact with one another. I am concerned with applying these principles to questions from medicine or materials research.”


What Koksch’s colleagues say: “Professor Koksch’s research stands out for her combination of state-of-the-art tools of molecular biology with a comprehensive understanding and appreciation of the physicochemical properties of selective fluorination. This unique and totally contemporary approach renders Professor Koksch one of the preeminent researchers in fluorine chemistry.”—John T. Welch, University at Albany

Herbert C. Brown Award for Creative Research in Synthetic Methods: Mark Lautens

This is a photo of Mark Lautens
Credit: Courtesy of Mark Lautens
Mark Lautens

Sponsor: Purdue Borane Research Fund and the Herbert C. Brown Award Endowment

Citation: For his discoveries in metal and multimetal catalyzed C–C and C–X bond methods that are useful in the synthesis of bioactive target molecules

Current position: University Professor, University of Toronto

Education: BS, chemistry, University of Guelph; PhD, chemistry, University of Wisconsin–Madison

What Lautens hopes to accomplish in the next decade: “I have worked to broaden my reach by contributing a dozen op-ed pieces to our national newspapers. My goals are to advocate for better support for early-career researchers, graduate students, postdocs, and traditionally underrepresented groups in science, and to encourage more scientists to enter the political process. In parallel, by informing the public—including decision-makers in business and government—on matters of science, I hope to positively influence our future. All in 750–800 words.”

What Lautens’s colleagues say: “The defining feature that sets Professor Lautens apart is his level of scholarship. I admire the careful analysis of reaction scope, limitations, and especially mechanistic insights that characterize his papers and lectures.”—Scott E. Denmark, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Harry Gray Award for Creative Work in Inorganic Chemistry by a Young Investigator: Smaranda C. Marinescu

This is a photo of Smaranda C. Marinescu
Credit: Courtesy of Smaranda C. Marinescu
Smaranda C. Marinescu

Sponsor: Gray Endowment Award

Citation: For her outstanding accomplishments in developing efficient catalytic systems for the conversion of solar energy into chemical bonds

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

Education: BS, chemistry and biology, California Institute of Technology; PhD, inorganic chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Marinescu on the biggest challenge she had to overcome: “As an assistant professor, I wanted to work at the interface of two fields, electrocatalysis and materials. I was excited about this project, but I had no prior experience in working with materials. Learning everything from scratch was challenging, but also very exciting. I am very grateful to the current and past Marinescu group members that contributed to this process. Their discoveries shaped our current understanding of this emerging field.”

What Marinescu’s colleagues say: “Marinescu stands out among the very strong group of young inorganic chemists because her laboratory has made very significant advances in both molecular chemistry and with extended materials.”—James Mayer, Yale University

F. Albert Cotton Award in Synthetic Inorganic Chemistry: Marinella Mazzanti

This is a photo of Marinella Mazzanti
Credit: Courtesy of Marinella Mazzanti
Marinella Mazzanti

Sponsor: F. Albert Cotton Endowment Fund

Citation: For her outstanding accomplishments in uranium and lanthanides spanning the stabilization of unusual oxidation states to multimetallic cluster synthesis and small-molecule activation

Current position: Professor of chemistry, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne (EPFL)

Education: MSc, inorganic chemistry, University of Pisa; PhD, inorganic chemistry, University of Lausanne

Mazzanti on what gets her creative juices flowing: “Surprise. Surprise by a completely unexpected and beautiful crystal structure. Surprise by a totally foolish or way overambitious idea that turns out to be easily realized. Surprise by a beautiful result reported by a colleague that opens new perspectives. Surprise by the brilliance and passion of a new student.”

What Mazzanti’s colleagues say: “I view her many advances in actinide chemistry as synthetic tours de force.”—Alan L. Balch, University of California, Davis

Ernest Guenther Award in the Chemistry of Natural Products: Bradley S. Moore

This is a photo of Bradley S. Moore.
Credit: Courtesy of Bradley S. Moore
Bradley S. Moore

Sponsor: Givaudan

Citation: For his insightful and innovative contributions to the fields of natural products chemistry, chemical biology, biosynthesis, genomics, and molecular genetic engineering

Current position: Professor of marine chemical biology, Scripps Institution of Oceanography; Chair and professor of pharmaceutical chemistry, University of California San Diego

Education: BS, chemistry, University of Hawaii; PhD, chemistry, University of Washington

What gets his creative juices flowing: “The elegance, beauty, and mystery of ­nature’s molecules and biocatalysts inspire and fascinate me. Starting back in my high school days when my father, the late Richard E. Moore of the University of ­Hawaii, solved the structure of the ­massively complex, marine poison palytoxin, I was hooked on nature’s evolved chemistry. Wanting to learn and apply the secrets of the natural chemical world to solving unmet challenges in society motivates me and gets my creative juices flowing.”

What Moore’s colleagues say: “Perhaps Moore’s crowning achievement was demonstrated in a recent Science paper describing the biosynthesis of the important marine toxin domoic acid in diatoms. While biosynthetic studies of bacterial metabolites are common, Brad’s risky work to open biosynthetic studies of the diatoms has paid off enormously. It now appears that probing biosynthetic gene clusters in diverse marine organisms is reality. We can expect to see more from Brad Moore probing biosynthesis in a diversity of marine life.”—William Fenical, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Nobel Laureate Signature Award for Graduate Education in Chemistry: Paul E. Ohno (student) and Franz M. Geiger (preceptor)

Sponsor: Avantor

Citation: For unraveling heretofore unknown interfacial phenomena at charged interfaces using nonlinear optics and for discovery of the χ(3) phase angle

This is a photo of Paul E. Ohno
Credit: Courtesy of Paul E. Ohno
Paul E. Ohno

What their colleagues say: “I recall vividly the Skype meetings in which Paul, Franz, and I went through the math to find what is now known as the χ(3) phase angle when Paul asked the key question: ‘What physics and chemistry does the χ(3) phase angle contain?’ The answer turned out to be delightfully straightforward, namely just the arctan of the wave vector mismatch (i.e., the experimental geometry) times the Debye length. Hence, Paul’s discovery opened the door to the first experimental determination of the Debye screening length—a new optical tool for answering important questions in fundamental and applied surface science.”—Hongfei Wang, Fudan University

Paul E. Ohno

Current position: Environmental fellow, Harvard University Center for the Environment

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

This is a photo of Franz M. Geiger
Credit: Courtesy of Franz M. Geiger
Franz M. Geiger

Ohno on his scientific role model: “My grandfather was not a scientist by training, but as a glassblower at Kansas State University he contributed to numerous scientific projects. Science requires people in many different roles and with diverse skillsets to work together, and I strive to live up to his humility and commitment to excellence in whatever role I find myself in each day.”

Franz M. Geiger

Current position: Dow Professor of Chemistry, Northwestern University

Education: BS equivalent, chemistry, Technical University of Berlin; PhD, chemistry, Georgetown University

What Geiger hopes to accomplish in the next decade: “There is a lot of ground to be covered in nonlinear optics of charged interfaces, which is what the award recognizes. Plans include basic advances like faster time resolution, spatial mapping through microscopy, and portability. In 10 years, this technology should replace electrical leads with photons as a true ‘optical voltmeter.’ ”


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