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2024 ACS National Award winners: Part I

Recipients are recognized for significant contributions to chemistry and the chemical community

by Nina Notman, special to C&EN
January 5, 2024 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 102, Issue 1


The following vignettes highlight recipients of the American Chemical Society’s 2024 National Awards. The quotes were provided as written statements and have been edited for length and clarity.

The award recipients will be honored at a ceremony at ACS Spring 2024 in New Orleans on March 19.

The 2024 Arthur C. Cope Award and Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award recipients will be profiled in the Jan. 15/22 issue of C&EN. Carolyn Bertozzi, the 2024 Priestley Medalist, will be celebrated in the March 11/18 issue.

ACS Award for Achievement in Research for the Teaching and Learning of Chemistry: Georgios Tsaparlis

Georgios Tsaparlis.
Credit: Courtesy of Georgios Tsaparlis
Georgios Tsaparlis

Sponsor: Endowed fund established by the ACS Exams Institute

Citation: For bringing originality and insight into chemistry education research through publishing articles on problem-solving and quantum chemistry, creating an open-access journal, and mentoring younger colleagues

Current position: Professor emeritus of science education, University of Ioannina

Education: BS, chemistry, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens; MS, chemistry, and PhD, theoretical chemistry, University of East Anglia

Tsaparlis on his favorite project: “My background in theoretical chemistry stimulated a line of research on how learning theories could inform the teaching and learning of atomic and molecular structure. This work led to investigations on the basic concepts of quantum mechanics and culminated in facilitating conceptual change and a phenomenographic study of students’ explanations, models, and misconceptions. The project was extended, more recently, to new pedagogies for teaching and learning chemical bonding, including the use of electrostatic potential maps.”

What Tsaparlis’s colleagues say: “Georgios’s contributions to research and teaching are exemplary. His work has increased our understanding of chemical pedagogy, leading to the improved teaching and learning of chemistry—thereby serving the international scientific community.”—David F. Treagust, Curtin University

ACS Award for Affordable Green Chemistry: Tomislav Friščić, Stefan G. Koenig, and Karthik Nagapudi

Sponsor: Endowed fund established by Rohm and Haas

Citation: For their innovative collaboration to demonstrate the application of resonant acoustic mixing to effect greener chemical synthesis for the pharmaceutical and fine chemical industries

What their colleagues say: “These three scientists have demonstrated that resonant acoustic mixing effects mild mechanochemical synthesis of diverse chemistries with drastically reduced solvent consumption. This demonstrates the potential for greener chemical synthesis as well as the power of academic-industry collaborations to advance new technologies and drive the chemical and pharmaceutical industries to more sustainable practices.”—David Stirling, Genentech

Tomislav Friščić

Tomislav Friščić.
Credit: Courtesy of Tomislav Friščić
Tomislav Friščić

Current position: Professor and Leverhulme International Chair in Green and Sustainable Chemistry, University of Birmingham

Education: BS, chemistry, University of Zagreb; PhD, chemistry, University of Iowa

Friščić on memorable projects: “Every project is memorable, but I particularly like the ones where many students and postdocs get excited and spontaneously engage to make quirky new discoveries that create new research areas for our group and maybe for others. Discovery of metal-organic framework minerals and recent determination of crystal structures of hypochlorite and hypobromite salts (aka bleach) are definitely among the top 10.”

Stefan G. Koenig

Stefan G. Koenig.
Credit: Courtesy of Stefan G. Koenig
Stefan G. Koenig

Current position: Distinguished scientist, Genentech

Education: BS, chemistry, Providence College; PhD, chemistry, Yale University; MBA, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Koenig on his most memorable project: “It was developing our antibody-antibiotic conjugate. The synthetic antibiotic component had an extended aromatic system, which gave it a dramatic color. It was a very dark solid, only appearing blue when in dilute solution. This color was retained after conjugation, meaning that we had a lot of interesting discussions about what was going on. It was one of the few times where real-life science looked like the movies.”

Karthik Nagapudi

Karthik Nagapudi.
Credit: Courtesy of Karthik Nagapudi
Karthik Nagapudi

Current position: Executive director of Synthetic Molecule Pharmaceutical Sciences, Genentech

Education: BS, chemical engineering, Anna University; MS and PhD, polymer science, Georgia Institute of Technology

Nagapudi on the most rewarding part of his job: “It is witnessing the transformational effect the medicines which I have worked on have on patients’ lives. While bringing a medicine to the market is a huge team effort, I still feel a sense of joy for the small part that I have played in getting these therapies to patients who need them the most.”

ACS Award for Computers in Chemical and Pharmaceutical Research: Krishnan Raghavachari

Krishnan Raghavachari.
Credit: Courtesy of Krishnan Raghavachari
Krishnan Raghavachari

Sponsor: ACS Division of Computers in Chemistry

Citation: For the development of accurate and insightful computational models in quantum chemistry and for pioneering their use in forefront applications ranging from semiconductor surface chemistry to computer-aided drug design

Current position: Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, Indiana University Bloomington

Education: BSc, chemistry, University of Madras; MSc, chemistry, Indian Institute of Technology Madras; PhD, chemistry, Carnegie Mellon University

Raghavachari on his proudest career moment: “Two come to mind. The first was in 1998 when my thesis advisor, John Pople, won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry and invited me to accompany him to Stockholm to participate in the celebrations. It provided an affirmation of my contribution to his success. The second is receiving this award because it is given explicitly for the impact of my work on the research community.”

What Raghavachari’s colleagues say: “Over his 40-year independent career, Krishnan has established himself as a leading contributor to the extraordinary evolution of computational methods in quantum chemistry. He has also led in the applications of these techniques to reveal and predict properties of molecules and materials in areas as diverse as semiconductors and computer-aided drug design.”—Caroline Chick Jarrold, Indiana University Bloomington

ACS Award for Creative Advances in Environmental Science and Technology: Andre J. Simpson

Andre J. Simpson.
Credit: Courtesy of Andre J. Simpson
Andre J. Simpson

Sponsor: Aerodyne Research and ACS Division of Environmental Chemistry

Citation: For pioneering the development of nuclear magnetic resonance in environmental research, including its use in unraveling soil’s chemical structure and how contaminants sequester in it, and for trailblazing the use of real-time in vivo NMR to study chemical toxicity

Current position: Professor of chemistry, University of Toronto Scarborough

Education: BSc and PhD, chemistry, University of Birmingham

Simpson on his hopes for the future: “It is very important we make NMR more accessible and encourage new environmental users. Over the next decade, I hope to develop handheld mobile NMR as a user-friendly tool for field analysis.”

What Simpson’s colleagues say: “Andre has greatly improved our understanding of some of the most complex systems in environmental chemistry and toxicology through his ingenious use of NMR spectroscopy. His studies of whole living organisms in a normal spectrometer have resulted in a unique real-time window into the interaction between chemicals and living organisms.”—Kristopher McNeill, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich

ACS Award for Creative Invention: Mary L. “Nora” Disis

Mary L. “Nora” Disis.
Credit: Courtesy of Mary L. “Nora” Disis
Mary L. “Nora” Disis

Sponsor: ACS Corporation Associates

Citation: For the invention of T-helper 1 selective vaccine candidates to treat and prevent cancer, several of which are currently being tested in multinational clinical trials

Current position: Helen B. Slonaker Endowed Professor for Cancer Research and professor of medicine, University of Washington

Education: BS, chemistry, Creighton University; MS, immunology, and MD, University of Nebraska

Disis on the most rewarding part of her job: “It is seeing the work we do translated to the clinic. The patients are inspiring, especially those volunteering for first-in-human studies with no expectation of an improved outcome for themselves. They are the real heroes in medical science.”

What Disis’s colleagues say: “Nora has a long history of innovation in cancer vaccine design and engineering. Her work has already made a difference in the lives of patients with breast and ovarian cancer, and she continues to develop vaccines for other common solid tumors.”—Andy Stergachis, University of Washington

ACS Award for Creative Work in Fluorine Chemistry: Michelle C. Y. Chang

Michelle C. Y. Chang.
Credit: Courtesy of Michelle C. Y. Chang
Michelle C. Y. Chang

Sponsor: ACS Division of Fluorine Chemistry

Citation: For groundbreaking contributions to the fields of organofluorine biosynthesis, enzymology, and bioengineering to generate specific site-selectively fluorinated natural products

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

Education: BS, chemical biology, and BA, French literature, University of California San Diego; PhD, biological chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Chang on her most memorable project: “Working on the semisynthetic production of artemisinin, an antimalarial drug, because the project eventually led to a product.”

What Chang’s colleagues say: “Michelle has developed highly creative strategies for incorporating fluorine atoms in clinically important biological molecules that serve as important drugs for human health and disease.”—Squire J. Booker, Pennsylvania State University

ACS Award for Creative Work in Synthetic Organic Chemistry: Viresh H. Rawal

Viresh H. Rawal.
Credit: Courtesy of Viresh H. Rawal
Viresh H. Rawal

Sponsor: MilliporeSigma (a business of Merck KGaA)

Citation: For the development of innovative, concise strategies for complex natural product synthesis and useful methodologies for asymmetric synthesis, especially using chiral hydrogen-bond donor catalysts

Current position: Professor of chemistry, University of Chicago

Education: BS, chemistry, University of Connecticut; PhD, organic chemistry, University of Pennsylvania

Rawal on his scientific hero: “I have always admired Hisashi Yamamoto, who was my colleague for many years. Hisashi has a love for chemistry that I have not seen in anyone else. Even now, at the age of 80, he is always thinking about creative solutions to major problems in organic chemistry, and he keeps coming up with paradigm-shifting solutions.”

What Rawal’s colleagues say: “Viresh is among the most creative living synthetic chemists. He does not choose facile synthetic targets, nor does he settle for mediocre solutions to the molecules he does choose. The new reactions and methods he has developed have been widely adopted throughout the world and have stimulated further work.”—Andrew G. Myers, Harvard University

ACS Award for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry: Stephen A. Koch

Stephen A. Koch.
Credit: Courtesy of Stephen A. Koch
Stephen A. Koch

Sponsor: Strem Chemicals (part of Ascensus Specialties)

Citation: For pioneering contributions to bioinorganic chemistry and fundamental synthetic coordination chemistry and for exceptional service to the ACS Division of Inorganic Chemistry

Current position: Professor emeritus of chemistry, Stony Brook University

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

Koch on his scientific hero: “My late wife, Michelle Millar, was one of the first woman chemistry professors. After being denied tenure by a sexist chemistry department at New York University, it took seven more years as a research professor before she received a tenured position at Stony Brook University. Her greatest satisfaction was the fact that she helped, with the other women of her generation, to break down the barriers that had limited the career opportunities for women chemists.”

What Koch’s colleagues say: “Steve has made important contributions in the fields of bioinorganic chemistry and coordination chemistry. For much of his academic career, he has also been a strong supporter of the ACS Division of Inorganic Chemistry, including organizing (or helping to organize) the division’s programming for 30 consecutive national meetings.”—Lawrence Que Jr., University of Minnesota Twin Cities

ACS Award for Encouraging Underrepresented and Economically Disadvantaged Students into Careers in the Chemical Sciences: Scott T. Wills

Scott T. Wills.
Credit: Courtesy of Scott T. Wills
Scott T. Wills

Sponsor: Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation

Citation: For his passionate efforts as a champion in the chemical industry for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics

Current position: R&D staffing leader, Dow

Education: BS, chemistry, University at Buffalo; PhD, analytical chemistry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Wills on his most memorable project: “It was an exploratory project in the liquid chromatography lab. This was the first project I did with an intern from the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. We proved that you don’t need to be fluent in American Sign Language to work successfully and safely with a deaf coworker. Communication goes far beyond the spoken word, and we learned that we could accomplish our technical goals relying only on the many nonverbal forms of communication.”

What Wills’s colleagues say: “Scott was instrumental in growing Dow’s internship program with [the National Technical Institute for the Deaf] from four deaf and hard-of-hearing interns in 2011 to a total of 55. He has encouraged and inspired our students and often offers guidance to the interns long after they have finished their Dow internship.”—Gerard J. Buckley, National Technical Institute for the Deaf, Rochester Institute of Technology

ACS Award for Encouraging Women into Careers in the Chemical Sciences: Elsa Reichmanis

Elsa Reichmanis.
Credit: Courtesy of Elsa Reichmanis
Elsa Reichmanis

Sponsor: Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation

Citation: For being an established industry leader as well as a role model, strong advocator, and mentor to countless women in the chemical sciences

Current position: Professor and Carl Robert Anderson Chair in Chemical Engineering, Lehigh University

Education: BS, chemistry, and PhD, organic chemistry, Syracuse University

Reichmanis on the most rewarding part of her job: “It is, without a doubt, working with students. It’s inspiring to see them grow and develop into independent researchers who are eager to solve global challenges. Seeing their excitement and sense of accomplishment when new results come in is motivational. I get to learn so much from them.”

What Reichmanis’s colleagues say: “Elsa has been a mentor and role model for many women in academia and industry. She is extremely approachable and always willing to listen and respond with insightful questions and thoughtful responses.”—Zhenan Bao, Stanford University


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