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Editorial: Celebrating chemistry awards

by Bibiana Campos Seijo
October 15, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 37


What a week we had after the announcement of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. I’m sure you are aware by now that it went to Stanford University’s Carolyn R. Bertozzi, the University of Copenhagen’s Morten Meldal, and Scripps Research’s K. Barry Sharpless.

The award recognized “their work on reactions that quickly link molecules and the application of the reactions in living cells,” as C&EN contributor Mark Peplow explains it.

History was once again made: Bertozzi became only the eighth woman—out of a total 189 recipients as of 2022—to receive the award, and Sharpless became one of only two individuals—the other is Frederick Sanger—to be recognized with the Nobel Prize in Chemistry twice.

The news was universally celebrated across the chemical sciences community. The recipients are certainly well-known and respected researchers, but importantly, as a notable chemist told me, the community was happy to honor research such as Bertozzi’s that helped “democratize chemistry” by making it accessible to many people, “including people that don’t know they are doing a cycloaddition when they run a click reaction.”

It is an important point to make: the discovery itself is important, and it also advances the field and helps make scientists’ lives easier. The concept of democratizing chemistry is really interesting and one that we’ll likely continue to encounter as our community works to make our field and its image more accessible.

Related to recognition and awards, I was happy to attend the award lecture by 2021 Dreyfus Prize in the Chemical Sciences recipient James Anderson. The accolade is given by the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation and was established in 2009 to award “an individual in a selected area of chemistry to recognize exceptional and original research that has advanced the field in a major way.”

The biennial $250,000 prize was ­dedicated to the area of environmental chemistry in 2021. Anderson’s citation recognized his “pioneering measurements of the free radicals that drive the chemistry of the atmosphere” and for “establishing the foundation for worldwide agreements to protect the stratospheric ozone layer.”

Harvard University’s Anderson is an undeniable leading figure in his field, and his work has impacted the way we think about climate and the environment. He has spoken many times in front of policy makers in US Senate and House of Representatives committees on topics related to the environment and energy. But importantly, his discoveries helped shaped the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer, an international treaty established in 1987 that enforced the phasing out of ozone-depleting substances.

During his lecture, Anderson went over his childhood and how his curiosity and engineering skills were encouraged by his father, who worked in radar operations in the South Pacific and had equipment and parts in their home.

In his remarks, Anderson recognized students and colleagues at Harvard multiple times. In particular, he acknowledged friend George Whitesides, who was in the audience and had himself won the award in its first edition, in 2009.

In 2023, the topic of the Dreyfus Prize will be imaging in the chemical sciences. The goal is to recognize “an individual who, through experimental methods and/or techniques of data analysis, has significantly impacted and advanced this important field,” Matthew Tirrell, chair of the Dreyfus Foundation Scientific Affairs Committee, says in the announcement. Nominations can be submitted at

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.


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