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2021 ACS National Award winners—Part IV

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 Daniel Rabinovich.
Credit: Courtesy of Daniel Rabinovich
Daniel Rabinovich

ACS Award for Research at an Undergraduate Institution: Daniel Rabinovich

Sponsor: Research Corporation for Science Advancement

Citation: For a career involving outstanding supervision and mentorship of undergraduate chemical professionals in synthetic inorganic chemistry

Current position: Professor of chemistry, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Education: BS, chemistry, Catholic University, Lima, Peru; PhD, inorganic chemistry, Columbia University

Rabinovich on what gets his creative juices flowing: “Whether it is to show someone how to use a Schlenk line, analyze the carbon-13 NMR spectrum of a new compound, or discuss an unexpected X-ray structure, it gives me great joy to work with students in the laboratory. When I see a student solve a problem that I considered particularly difficult or carry out an experiment that I thought might not work, I am motivated to push students and myself even further.”

What Rabinovich’s colleagues say: “Dan has served as an outstanding adviser and mentor to many research students spanning a wide age range and background, from high school students to master’s degree candidates. I have been amazed at the quality of inorganic research that Dan has been able to achieve with his high school students. Also, I have attended research presentations that many of his undergraduate students have made at regional and national ACS meetings (more than 240 total student presentations for Dan’s research group). These presentations have always been excellent, and you can clearly see that Dan has prepared them very well.”—Gregory J. Grant, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

E. B. Hershberg Award for Important Discoveries in Medicinally Active Substances: Edward Roberts

This is a photo of Edward Roberts
Credit: Courtesy of Edward Roberts
Edward Roberts

Sponsor: Merck Research Laboratories

Citation: For his development of bitopic modulators for therapeutic intervention, including agonists for multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis

Current position: Professor of molecular medicine, Scripps Research

Education: BS, biochemistry, University of Sussex; PhD, synthetic organic chemistry, Newcastle University

Roberts on the biggest research challenge he’s had to overcome: “Easily the biggest challenge has been to abandon the tracks laid and walked by others and to define new routes in discovery that add to the current knowledge by placing footsteps in fresh snow. I learnt this from Professor Sir Alexander Todd, Baron Todd of Trumpington whilst I was in Cambridge. This is what drives me.”

What Roberts’s colleagues say: “Ed is one of the few chemists that I have worked with who can find the sweet spot of affinity, efficacy, and lack of toxicity for molecules at a given target that can result in a clinically useful drug. This has resulted in a huge impact for the development of novel medicines that can influence the lives of patients. One of Ed’s most remarkable successes is responsible for the discovery and development of ozanimod, an S1P1 agonist that is now approved for relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis.”—Frank Porreca, University of Arizona

Alfred Bader Award in Bioinorganic or Bioorganic Chemistry: Amy C. Rosenzweig

This is a photo of Amy C. Rosenzweig
Credit: Courtesy of Amy C. Rosenzweig
Amy C. Rosenzweig

Sponsor: Alfred R. Bader Fund

Citation: For pioneering work in bioinorganic chemistry elucidating metalloenzyme catalysis and cellular metal homeostasis at the molecular level

Current position: Weinberg Family Distinguished Professor of Life Sciences, Northwestern University

Education: BA, chemistry, Amherst College; PhD, inorganic chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

What gets her creative juices flowing: “I am most creative when a lab member shows me a surprising result that is difficult to explain. I enjoy brainstorming new models and explanations with my students and postdocs and then coming up with crazy ways to test these models in the laboratory. I have brilliant and fearless students who filter out the silly ideas and push ahead with the great ones.”

What Rosenzweig’s colleagues say: “Rosenzweig is an internationally known bioinorganic chemist with a stellar record of significant research accomplishments. She is most widely recognized as the world expert on particulate methane monooxygenase, an integral membrane metalloenzyme that converts methane, the most inert hydrocarbon, to methanol. This reaction has significant implications for catalysis, global warming, and bioremediation. Rosenzweig is also a superb mentor and has played a major role in training and placing the next generation of bioinorganic chemists.”—Judith P. Klinman, University of California, Berkeley

ACS Award in Organometallic Chemistry: Melanie Sanford

This is a photo of Melanie S. Sanford
Credit: Courtesy of Melanie S. Sanford
Melanie S. Sanford

Sponsor: Dow

Citation: For detailed studies of high-valent organometallic Pd and Ni complexes that have led fundamental advances in inorganic chemistry and catalysis

Current position: Moses Gomberg Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry, University of Michigan

Education: BS, MS, chemistry, Yale University; PhD, chemistry, California Institute of Technology

What gets her creative juices flowing: “My creativity is sparked by two things. First, I love getting unexpected scientific results. Tracking down/puzzling through how and why something unexpected ­happened in a chemical reaction is one of the most fun things about being a chemist. Second, I love being introduced to new problems and approaches by ­collaborators. Some of the most exciting current projects in my group were ­initiated by conversations with collaborators.”

What Sanford’s colleagues say: “The Sanford lab has attacked some of the toughest problems in organometallic chemistry and catalysis and in each, has identified totally new solutions and strategies that are having real impact. Beyond the tremendous creativity she has demonstrated in her chemistry, the rigor and quality of Melanie’s work is consistently of the highest standard. She has opened up entirely new directions for organometallic chemistry and her work has inspired the science of countless research teams around the world.”—Karen Goldberg, University of Pennsylvania

Ronald Breslow Award for Achievement in Biomimetic Chemistry: Jonathan L. Sessler

This is a photo of Jonathan L. Sessler
Credit: Courtesy of Jonathan L. Sessler
Jonathan L. Sessler

Sponsor: Ronald Breslow Award Endowment

Citation: For the discovery of expanded porphyrins, molecular recognition via base-pairing, pyrrole-based anion binding, and demonstrating the power of this biomimetic chemistry in drug discovery

Current position: Professor of chemistry, R. P. Doherty Jr.-Welch Regents Chair in Chemistry, University of Texas at Austin

Education: BS, chemistry, University of California, Berkeley; PhD, chemistry, Stanford University

Sessler on the biggest challenge he’s had to overcome: “I was diagnosed with stage 3B Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a senior in college and spent too much of my time in graduate school fighting the disease. It left me fundamentally fatigued. Recurring body blows, health-related, emotional, administrative, etc. have knocked me to the mat on a 5–10 year cycle ever since. Picking up the pieces and fighting on is tough, but it helps to have wonderful friends and colleagues—and an ability to laugh at the vagaries of life.”

What Sessler’s colleagues say: “Jonathan is one of the true stars in biomimetic chemistry. He has made major contributions to expanded porphyrin chemistry, drug development, electron-transfer modeling, and pyrrole-based anion recognition. Jonathan’s work is important, innovative, and far-reaching.”—Sir Fraser Stoddart, Northwestern University

George C. Pimentel Award in Chemical Education: Dudley E. Shallcross

This is a photo of Dudley Shallcross
Credit: Courtesy of Dudley Shallcross
Dudley Shallcross

Sponsor: Cengage Learning and the ACS Division of Chemical Education

Citation: For innovative contributions to the teaching of chemistry (science) from elementary school to postgraduate study and in promoting chemistry to prospective students and the public

Current position: Professor of atmospheric chemistry, University of Bristol

Education: BSc, chemistry and mathematics, University of Southampton; MEd, education, University of Bristol; PhD, atmospheric chemistry, University of Oxford

What Shallcross hopes to accomplish in the next decade: “My mantra is 24/7 learning not 24/7 teaching. We now have the opportunity to provide higher education students with a learning environment they can engage with outside stated teaching time. We do not need to teach more but support students more in their own learning. I hope that in the next decade, we will use digital tools to achieve this. My goal is to maximize the support that online resources can provide and make face-to-face interactions as beneficial as possible.”

What Shallcross’s colleagues say: “Dudley Shallcross has made numerous innovative contributions to the teaching of chemistry in the UK and around the world, across the whole spectrum of learners: the youngest that we know about is 4, the oldest 90! He has been most effective at promoting chemistry in particular, but also science in general, to prospective degree students and to the general public through an outstanding outreach program.”—Mike Ashfold, University of Bristol

Elias J. Corey Award for Outstanding Original Contribution in Organic Synthesis by a Young Investigator: Ryan A. Shenvi

This is a photo of Ryan A. Shenvi
Credit: Courtesy of Ryan A. Shenvi
Ryan A. Shenvi

Sponsor: Pfizer Endowment Fund

Citation: For fundamental discoveries in organic chemistry, synthetic methodology, and natural products total synthesis, providing key insights into the mechanism of action of natural products

Current position: Professor of chemistry, Scripps Research

Education: BS, chemistry, Pennsylvania State University; PhD, chemistry, Scripps Research

What gets his creative juices flowing: “Quiet, isolated times to reflect and imagine have been critical components of my favorite research threads. I enjoy reading outside my immediate area, especially mechanistic studies in chemistry or biochemistry. They help me view a problem or frame a question from a different perspective. Allocation of protected time is a discipline, but also a luxury for parents of young children. We must support colleagues, staff, and students whose struggles with work/life balance are struggles with, in reality, two jobs.”

What Shenvi’s colleagues say: “Professor Shenvi is a terrific scientist who has made fundamental discoveries in organic chemistry, synthetic methodology, and natural products total synthesis, providing key insights into the mechanism of action of natural products and advancing the fields in seminal new directions.”—Dale Boger, Scripps Research

ACS Award for Achievement in Research for the Teaching and Learning of Chemistry: Vicente A. Talanquer

This is a photo of Vicente Talanquer
Credit: Courtesy of Vicente Talanquer
Vicente Talanquer

Sponsor: ACS Exams Institute

Citation: For his groundbreaking investigations of student thinking in chemistry which provided new insights into students’ conceptual challenges and enabled the development of innovative curricular reforms

Current position: University distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry, University of Arizona

Education: BS, chemistry, PhD, physical chemistry, National Autonomous University of Mexico

Talanquer on his scientific role models: “I have always been fascinated and motivated by the work and ideas of people who seamlessly integrate their scientific understanding of the world with philosophical, humanistic, educational, and artistic perspectives. For example, Roald Hoffmann in chemistry and Richard Feynman in physics. I admire their ability to see beyond the confines of a discipline to explore the origin, meaning, and scope of scientific ideas.”

What Talanquer’s colleagues say: “Dr. Talanquer has pioneered new lines of investigation that address critical barriers to our progress in educating chemistry students.”—Marilyne Stains, University of Virginia

ACS Award in Polymer Chemistry: Kenneth B. Wagener

This is a photo of Ken B. Wagener
Credit: Courtesy of Ken B. Wagener
Ken B. Wagener

Sponsor: ExxonMobil Chemical

Citation: For significant contributions in both industry and academia, including pioneering the acyclic diene metathesis polymerization, which launched an entirely new field of synthetic polymer chemistry

Current position: Butler Professor Emeritus, University of Florida

Education: BS, chemistry, Clemson University; PhD, organic and polymer chemistry, University of Florida

Wagener on what gets his creative juices flowing: “Working with graduate students, postdocs, visiting scientists every day. The office door always has been open, and these people come in excited with an observation or discovery. Students are the source of creativity; my role is to serve as a motivating force. This arrangement has been most rewarding.”

What Wagener’s colleagues say: “A world leader in synthetic polymer chemistry, Wagener has made major contributions in academia and industry, including pioneering ADMET chemistry. He has had three industrial products go commercial, is passionate about teaching and research, and has received the highest honor possible from all institutions he has been associated with—Florida, American Enka (a former part of Akzo Nobel), and Clemson, his undergraduate institution—a pattern speaking both to his research achievements and also to his character. Wagener is the ‘complete chemist.’ ”—Joseph DeSimone, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

E. Bright Wilson Award in Spectroscopy: Lai-Sheng Wang

This is a photo of Lai-Sheng Wang
Credit: Courtesy of Lai-Sheng Wang
Lai-Sheng Wang

Sponsor: ACS Division of Physical Chemistry

Citation: For his pioneering studies of multiply charged anions and cryogenically cooled anions using photoelectron spectroscopy

Current position: Jesse H. and Louisa D. Sharpe Metcalf Professor of Chemistry and chair of the Chemistry Department, Brown University

Education: BS, chemistry, Wuhan University; PhD, physical chemistry, University of California, Berkeley

Wang on what gets his creative juices flowing: “Engaging in active discussions with my students or collaborators. Solutions for complicated problems emerge through the free exchange of ideas. In my case, the problems often involve interesting photoelectron spectra of nanoclusters or molecular anions, and the solutions are usually beautiful structures and unexpected chemical bonding models. I have been fortunate to be associated with many talented students and amazing collaborators who have all made the journey of discovery more exciting and kept my creative juices flowing.”


What Wang’s colleagues say: “Lai-Sheng is considered as one of the most creative and productive physical chemists in the world. His original and imaginative work using electrospray and photoelectron spectroscopy has pushed the frontier of physical chemistry into new territories.”—Alexander Boldyrev, Utah State University

E. V. Murphree Award in Industrial and Engineering Chemistry: Yong Wang

This is a photo of Yong Wang
Credit: Courtesy of Yong Wang
Yong Wang

Sponsor: ExxonMobil Research & Engineering

Citation: For the development of innovative catalytic materials and reaction engineering concepts leading to sustainable technologies for solving current and future energy, resource, and environmental challenges

Current position: Voiland Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering, Washington State University; fellow, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Education: BS and MS, chemical engineering, Chengdu University of Science and Technology (now Sichuan University); PhD, chemical engineering, Washington State University

Wang on what gets his creative juices flowing: “I have been blessed with working in a highly collaborative environment with the brightest minds. Opportunities of working on both fundamental and applied research also help me do best in fundamental studies when I can see the clear practical impact, and in applied research when I understand the underlying mechanisms at the molecular level.”

What Wang’s colleagues say: “Yong is clearly one of very few scholars in the catalysis community who are proficient in contributions to both science and technologies. His publications and patents primarily focus on addressing the energy and atom efficiency issues related to the catalytic conversion of biomass and fossil feedstocks.”—Charles Peden, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

ACS Award in Colloid Chemistry: Emily A. Weiss

This is a photo of Emily A. Weiss
Credit: Courtesy of Emily A. Weiss
Emily A. Weiss

Sponsor: Colgate-Palmolive

Citation: For her outstanding contributions to colloidal photocatalysis and to chemical design of the interfaces of nanoscale colloids with their environments

Current position: Mark and Nancy Ratner Professor, Northwestern University

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

What Weiss hopes to accomplish in the next decade: “I hope that, in the near future, my group can make progress toward optical imaging of biological systems at timescales significantly less than 1 millisecond. This involves designing probes for fast processes (such as small ion diffusion) that are very bright and react instantaneously to their environments and designing a detection system that can capture a useful picture with a small integration time.”

What Weiss’s colleagues say: “Professor Weiss has made seminal contributions to understanding the ligand interactions with nanoparticle surfaces, with far-reaching implications for the nanoparticle community. The idea of using molecular ratchets to efficiently harvest energy and overcome the Shockley–Queisser limit presents an important new approach. Perhaps more importantly, the idea of harvesting otherwise-wasted energy has the potential to significantly improve the efficiency of solar energy conversion. As a result, her work has great potential for future societal benefit.”—Robert J. Hamers, University of Wisconsin–Madison

James Bryant Conant Award in High School Chemistry Teaching: Shea Wickelson

This is a photo of Shea Wickelson
Credit: Courtesy of Shea Wickelson
Shea Wickelson

Sponsor: Conant Award Endowment

Citation: In Shea Wickleson’s classroom, “no future chemist is left behind.”

Current position: Chemistry teacher, Salt Lake Center for Science Education

Education: BA, environmental science, Colorado College; MS, chemistry (teaching), University of Utah

What gets Wickelson’s creative juices flowing: “I teach in an intentionally desegregated school and choose not to track my chemistry classes, which means I have students who will be the first in their families to go to college sitting alongside students whose parents are science professors. Creating a classroom community where all students are challenged, engaged, and afforded access to rich curriculum requires consistent attention to differentiation. I love the challenge of creating investigative units that allow students from different backgrounds to equitably solve problems together.”

What Wickelson’s colleagues say: “Shea’s ability to challenge and inspire students is evidenced by the preponderance of students who graduate from her school and major in chemistry and related sciences. At a school where the student body is diverse in race and socioeconomic status, it is significant that many of these graduates are female and the first in their family to attend college.”—Niki Hack, Salt Lake Center for Science Education

Charles Lathrop Parsons Award: Ruth Page Woodall

This is a photo of Ruth Page Woodall
Credit: Courtesy of Ruth Page Woodall
Ruth Page Woodall

Sponsor: ACS

Citation: For distinguished and outstanding public service, her passionate advocacy for diversity and mentorship, and for her multidisciplinary expertise in STEM, public relations, and nonprofit management

Current position: Executive director, Tennessee Scholars, and development manager and grant writer, NeuroNexus Foundation

Education: BS, chemistry, Union University; MA, curriculum and instruction, University of Memphis

What gets her creative juices flowing: “Diversity of outreach events and audiences get my creative juices flowing. All of the ACS themes and resources help me to be more innovative and creative. I have held chemistry outreach events at museums, malls, flea markets, churches, festivals, county fairs, restaurants, companies, senior citizens centers, nursing homes, schools, departments stores, observatories, hospitals, street fairs, zoos, parks, and the Tennessee STEM Day on the Hill.”

What Woodall’s colleagues say: “Ruth has devoted her life to service to science and to improving lives through science. For example, she designed a lab manual for special education students. She helped set up state capitol ­visits by Tennessee ACS members. Ruth has served as a volunteer at a science ­museum for children and done chemistry demonstrations on local TV. And she mentors Hispanic girls in her community and gives them chemistry materials written in Spanish to distribute to ­others.”—E. Ann Nalley, Cameron University

ACS Award for Encouraging Disadvantaged Students into Careers in the Chemical Sciences: Elaine S. Yamaguchi

This is a photo of Elaine S. Yamaguchi
Credit: Courtesy of Elaine S. Yamaguchi
Elaine S. Yamaguchi

Sponsor: Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation

Citation: Elaine S. Yamaguchi, a seminal contributor to the California Sections of Project SEED and Women Chemists Committee, is commended for devotion to those underrepresented in chemical sciences.

Current position: Retired chemist, Chevron

Education: AB, chemistry, Brandeis University; PhD, chemistry, Yale University

What she hopes to accomplish in the next decade: “Continue advancing Project SEED in the California Section, both in size and scope. There is never a shortage of economically disadvantaged high school students who can benefit from the SEED experience. As cochair of our Women Chemists Committee, I also want to encourage women in their chemical careers by having a speaker series representing many different career choices based on the chemical sciences, as well as provide an environment where attendees can network effectively.”

What Yamaguchi’s colleagues say: “Elaine Yamaguchi’s involvement in ACS Project SEED and Women Chemists Committee programs has touched thousands of disadvantaged persons, catalyzing hundreds of careers in the chemical sciences. Whether coordinating research opportunities for high school students, organizing interaction between women chemists, or encouraging the involvement of other ACS members in this effort, Dr. Yamaguchi has led a life of inspiration stimulating careers in the chemical sciences for those disadvantaged by socioeconomics, gender, and race.”—Spencer Walse, US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service

Glenn T. Seaborg Award for Nuclear Chemistry: Sherry J. Yennello

This is a phto of Sherry J. Yennello
Credit: Courtesy of Sherry J. Yennello
Sherry J. Yennello

Sponsor: ACS Division of Nuclear Chemistry and Technology

Citation: For her innovative and illuminating research on the role of the N/Z degree of freedom on dynamics and equilibration in nuclear reactions

Current position: Regents professor of chemistry, Bright Chair in Nuclear Science, and director of the Cyclotron Institute, Texas A&M University

Education: BS, chemistry and physics, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; PhD, nuclear chemistry, Indiana University

Yennello’s scientific role model: “Vic Viola, previous winner of the Glenn Seaborg award and my thesis adviser, who demonstrated every day that you could do excellent science and treat people with respect. He introduced me to lots of amazing science and the opportunity to contribute to discovering nature’s secrets. He was able to challenge people scientifically without making it personal and cultivate an environment where everyone was given the support they needed to reach their potential.”

What Yennello’s colleagues say: “Two aspects of Professor Yennello’s career are especially noteworthy: her leadership in the study of the dynamics and thermodynamics of excited nuclear matter, with special attention given to understanding the density dependence of the symmetry term of the nuclear equation of state; and her leadership in understanding and advancing the role of women in science, as well as participating in outreach to bring the best and brightest students to science in general and nuclear chemistry in particular.”—Walter Loveland, Oregon State University


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