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2022 ACS National Award winners—Part VI

Recipients are honored for contributions of major significance to chemistry

by Nina Notman, special to C&EN
January 23, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 3


George A. Olah Award in Hydrocarbon or Petroleum Chemistry: T. Brent Gunnoe

This is a photo of T. Brent Gunnoe
Credit: Courtesy of T. Brent Gunnoe
T. Brent Gunnoe

Sponsor: George A. Olah Award Endowment

Citation: For significant contributions to catalytic hydrocarbon functionalization including advancements on arene alkylation/alkenylation as well as catalytic partial oxidation of light alkanes

Current position: Commonwealth Professor of Chemistry, University of Virginia

Education: BA, chemistry, West Virginia University; PhD, chemistry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Gunnoe on his scientific heroes: “Many individuals came to mind. I have tremendous respect and admiration for all of my closest mentors including Jeff Petersen, who was my undergraduate research adviser; Joe Templeton, my thesis adviser; and Dean Harman, my postdoc adviser at the University of Virginia. These three individuals embody the attributes of a great scientist, including creativity, enthusiasm, integrity, and a passion to mentor and inspire others.”

What Gunnoe’s colleagues say: “Brent has published some of the most remarkable and impactful advances in the development of new catalytic systems to accomplish C-H functionalization of arenes and alkanes. He has increased the selectivity and activity of these systems to unprecedented levels. He accomplished this through detailed mechanistic studies of the catalytic reactions and the organization of unique collaborative networks that have brought together colleagues across different fields.”—Karen I. Goldberg, University of Pennsylvania

Glenn T. Seaborg Award for Nuclear Chemistry: Carolyn J. Anderson

This is a photo of Carolyn J. Anderson
Credit: Courtesy of Carolyn J. Anderson
Carolyn J. Anderson

Sponsor: ACS Division of Nuclear Chemistry and Technology

Citation: For pioneering research in radiopharmaceutical chemistry including ushering in two different fields in the medical use of radioisotopes: immunoPET and theranostics

Current position: Simón-Ellebracht Professor in Medicinal Chemistry and professor of radiology, University of Missouri

Education: BS, chemistry, University of Wisconsin–Superior; PhD, inorganic chemistry, Florida State University

Anderson on her scientific hero: “Marie Curie is my scientific hero. Science was her life both professionally and personally. She married her scientific partner (Pierre Curie) and inspired her daughter (Irène) to be a Nobel Prize awardee. Madame Curie withstood great tragedy, a scandalous relationship with a married colleague followed by being ostracized, and yet with her head held high, she accepted her second Nobel Prize in person. She was a brilliant scientist, yet wholly human.”

What Anderson’s colleagues say: “Carolyn is one of the world’s leading radiochemists, renowned nationally and internationally for her work in the development of metal-based radiopharmaceuticals. Her work has been paradigm shifting and has changed the course of the radiochemistry discipline.”—Jason S. Lewis, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Gabor A. Somorjai Award for Creative Research in Catalysis: Jin-Quan Yu

A photo of Jin-Quan Yu
Credit: Courtesy of Jin-Quan Yu
Jin-Quan Yu

Sponsor: Gabor A. and Judith K. Somorjai Endowment Fund

Citation: For his pioneering development of catalytic methods of C-H activation reactions

Current position: Frank and Bertha Hupp Professor of Chemistry, Scripps Research Institute

Education: BS, chemistry, East China Normal University; MS, organic chemistry, Guangzhou Institute of Chemistry; PhD, organic chemistry, University of Cambridge

Yu on what he hopes to accomplish in the next decade: “I hope to develop the seventh generation of ligands that will allow us to perform a wide range of room-temperature C-H activation reactions using green oxidants such as molecular oxygen and aqueous hydrogen peroxides as the terminal oxidants. I also hope to develop routine organic lab courses using our own reactions, as well as realize ton-scale production of medicines using these reactions.”

What Yu’s colleagues say: “Jin-Quan pioneered many of the first practical carbon-hydrogen bond-activation reactions that are now used in nearly every sector of chemistry. His reactions and catalysts are widely used and have led to fundamental new ways of designing organic syntheses. His intellectual depth, mechanistic insights, outstanding scholarship, and unique creativity are extraordinary, and he is a terrific scientist.”—Dale L. Boger, Scripps Research Institute

Henry H. Storch Award in Energy Chemistry: Robert L. McCormick

This is a photo of Robert L. McCormick
Credit: Courtesy of Robert L. McCormick
Robert L. McCormick

Sponsor: Henry H. Storch Endowment

Citation: For internationally recognized leadership and innovation in research on alternative and low-carbon fuels, and the chemistry of fuel-engine interactions

Current position: Senior research fellow, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Education: BS, chemical engineering, Oklahoma State University; MS, chemical engineering, Iowa State University; PhD, chemical engineering, University of Wyoming

McCormick on the global challenge he would like to help solve: “Meeting global energy needs while not destroying the climate is the most important problem in energy research. More than 25 years ago, I began to focus on biofuels as a part of the solution for transportation. Climate change is impacting everyone, but the marginalized in our society and poor people all over the world are bearing the brunt of it. It is important to me to help make life easier for those less fortunate than I have been.”

What McCormick’s colleagues say: “The benefits to society of Robert’s work are very clear. He has directly contributed to the quality of biodiesel and the growth of the biodiesel market to in excess of 3 billion gallons. He has advanced the adoption and standards for ethanol in gasoline. He has also shown that oxygenates including biomass-derived oxygenates can be drop-in fuels for existing vehicle systems.”—Andrew Herring, Colorado School of Mines

E. Bright Wilson Award in Spectroscopy: Mark Johnson

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

Sponsor: E. Bright Wilson Endowment

Citation: For the development of cryogenic ion-spectroscopy and elucidating the spectral signatures of water, aqueous ions, and reaction intermediates at the molecular level

Current position: Arthur T. Kemp Professor of Chemistry, Yale University

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

Johnson on his most memorable project: “Probably working out how free electrons stick to water clusters. We had to integrate all types of spectroscopies—negative ion photodetachment and photoelectron spectroscopies, vibrational predissociation spectroscopy, and double resonance combinations of all types—to get the bottom of it over the course of 10 years. The answer took us all by surprise, nobody predicted that both hydrogens on a water molecule would just grab the electron and hold on!”

What Johnson’s colleagues say: “Mark has transformed the field of ion-spectroscopy. The concepts and experimental methods that he conceived have given birth to a powerful analytical platform that generates qualitatively new types of information about chemical processes, which range from supramolecular architectures to intermediates in catalysis.”—Robert W. Field, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Ahmed Zewail Award in Ultrafast Science and Technology: Thomas Elsaesser

This is a photo of Thomas Elsaesser
Credit: Courtesy of Thomas Elsaesser
Thomas Elsaesser

Sponsor: Ahmed Zewail Endowment Fund established by the Newport Corporation

Citation: For outstanding accomplishments in ultrafast science, elucidating molecular interactions in aqueous systems, and the spatio-temporal dynamics of charges in solids

Current position: Director, Max Born Institute, and professor of experimental physics, Humboldt University of Berlin

Education: Diploma and Dr. rer. nat., physics, Technical University of Munich

Elsaesser on the research he is being honored for: “We started with the simple question: how fast does water lose its structural memory? Having understood that ultrafast electric fluctuations are at the heart of the problem, we looked at how water interacts with free electric charges and how complex DNA and RNA architectures are stabilized and preserved in water. Our work has benefitted from a very close link between experiment and theory, and it has been fun to jointly unravel some of the basic mechanisms of hydration.”

What Elsaesser’s colleagues say: “Thomas has led the field of ultrafast spectroscopy for almost three decades since his earliest work about proton transfer and vibrational relaxation using picosecond pulses. His contribution to the field is enormous, and his works have created the basis of our understanding of ultrafast processes in the condensed phase.”—Tahei Tahara, Riken

National Fresenius Award: Song Lin

This is a photo of Song Lin
Credit: Courtesy of Song Lin
Song Lin

Sponsor: Phi Lambda Upsilon, the National Chemistry Honor Society

Citation: For advancing creative catalytic strategies to control radical intermediates in regio- and stereoselective organic synthesis

Current position: Associate professor of chemistry, Cornell University

Education: BS, chemistry, Peking University; PhD, chemistry, Harvard University

Lin on a particularly proud career moment: “After I gave a seminar at a National Academy of Sciences workshop, when Larry Faulkner came and told me that he would like to include some of my lab’s research in the newest edition of his classic Electrochemical Methods textbook. One of my career goals was that some of my research will become textbook material one day, and I had a ‘dream come true’ moment after my conversation with Larry.”

What Lin’s colleagues say: “Song has emerged as one of the most creative and deep-thinking chemists of his generation. It will be very exciting to see where this young star will take his program, as there is little doubt that he will continue to help define the cutting edge of the field of reaction chemistry.”—Eric N. Jacobsen, Harvard University


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