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portrait of Xiao Cheng Zeng, Midwest Award winner

... and the 2011 winner was ...

Xiao Cheng Zeng, Ameritas Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry at University of Nebraska–Lincoln, is internationally known for his computational studies of new phases of ice, gold, and silicon clusters, and nanostructured materials. Zeng is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a fellow of the American Physical Society. He has also held a John Simon Guggenheim fellowship and a fellowship of Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. He has received numerous awards and honors, including University of Nebraska Outstanding Research and Creative Activity Award, Sigma Xi Outstanding Young Scientist Award, and an inaugural Willa Cather professorship at UNL.

Zeng has published 271 scientific papers in refereed journals including two in Nature, nine in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, and twenty-four in Journal of the American Chemical Society. The most significant scientific discoveries from the Zeng group include the two-dimensional hexagonal bilayer ice ("Nebraska ice"), two-dimensional ice clathrate, multi-walled helical ice, one-dimensional ferroelectric ice, and hollow cages of gold. These findings were featured in the New York Times, Omaha World-Herald, Lincoln Journal-Star, Royal Society of Chemistry, American Scientist magazine, New Scientist magazine, and National Public Radio.

A faculty member since 1993 at UNL, Zeng has supervised 20 graduate students (16 PhD and 4 MS) and 19 postdoctoral fellows. Eight former PhD graduate students in the Zeng group received University of Nebraska, College of Arts & Science, and/or Department of Chemistry Outstanding Graduate Research Assistant awards. Zeng received his bachelor’s degree from Peking University in 1984 and his PhD from the Ohio State University in 1989. He pursued postdoctoral research at University of Chicago and UCLA from 1989 to 1993.

Portrait of John Verkade

... and the 2010 winner was ...

Professor John Verkade is a prolific and honored University Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Iowa State University. He received his BS degree in 1956 from the University of Illinois, the AM in 1957 from Harvard University, and his PhD in 1960 from the University of Illinois. He joined the faculty at Iowa State University in 1960.

Dr Verkade has made landmark contributions in work that has shed new light on the nature of phosphorus-acceptor bonding. Dr Verkade has developed caged phosphines, “Verkade superbases,” as catalysts for many important organic transformations. Proazaphosphatranes of this type have found legion applications as superior reagents and catalysts in diverse organic processes that are known to be based-induced. Several of these proazaphosphatranes have become commercially available. Dr Verkade has expanded his phosphatrane research to related metallatranes. He was awarded the 1994 B F Goodrich Collegiate Inventors Program Award.

Dr Verkade has published 5 books, over 400 refereed papers, and holds 20 patents. He has given over 100 invited lectures at academic and industrial laboratories around the world. He has mentored 38 PhD and 15 MS graduate students, 69 post-doctoral fellows, 10 visiting faculty, and 33 undergraduate students. Dr Verkade invented a novel, systematic and simple pictorial approach to generating the shapes of all the molecular orbitals and vibratory motions of a wide variety of molecules: a teaching methodology that became known as the “generator orbital” approach. In 1987, the Santa Clara Section of the ACS awarded him the Harry and Carol Mosher Award for teaching, research and service.

Dr Verkade has been a tower of strength on many important ACS committees. He has chaired the Society Committee on Publications, served as an elected member on the Board of Directors, chaired the Chemical Abstracts Services Committee, and has chaired the Committee on Grants and Awards for the Petroleum Research Foundation.

Portrait of Richard Larock

... and the 2009 winner was ...

Richard C Larock is Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at Iowa State University. He received his BS degree summa cum laude in 1967 from the University of California at Davis and his PhD from Purdue University in 1972, under the direction of Professor Herbert C Brown, the 1979 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry. In 1971, he was an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University under Professor E J Corey, the 1990 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry. In 1972, he joined the Chemistry Department of Iowa State University, where he rose through the ranks, to University Professor in 1999 and Distinguished Professor in 2007.

Professor Larock is a pioneer in the use of palladium catalysts in organic synthesis, particularly in the synthesis of carbocycles and heterocycles. Dr Larock has also discovered a remarkable range of novel rubber, adhesive, coating, elastomeric and plastic materials and biocomposites made from natural oils. Professor Larock has given over 420 research presentations and published about 350 articles, 32 patents, and 4 books. The books include two on applications of organomercury compounds in organic synthesis and two editions of the best selling classic Comprehensive Organic Transformations.

Dr Larock’s contributions have earned several major awards, including an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship, a DuPont Young Faculty Scholar Award, two Merck Academic Development Awards, the Iowa Regent’s Award for Faculty Excellence, the Edward Leete Award of the American Chemical Society, the Paul Rylander Award of the Organic Reactions Catalysis Society, and an American Chemical Society Arthur C. Cope Senior Scholar Award.

Portrait of Daryle Busch

... and the 2008 winner was ...

Daryle H Busch was born in the small town of Carterville, IL, population 2800. Upon graduation from high school in 1946, he enlisted and served in the US Army for about 2 years, most of the time as chief clerk for the Surgeon General, Far East Command, in MacArthur’s headquarters in Tokyo. After his honorable discharge, he attended Southern Illinois University, graduating after just three years. He then attended graduate school at the University of Illinois, where he worked with John C Bailar, Jr, one of the true pioneers of inorganic chemistry. He received the M S degree in 1952 and Ph D in 1954. While a graduate student, he edited a volume of Inorganic Synthesis and J C Bailar, Jr’s monograph, Chemistry of the Coordination Compounds. Busch’s independent career began in 1954 as an Assistant Professor at The Ohio State University, where he rose to Presidential Professor in 1987. In 1988, he relocated to the University of Kansas as the Roy A Roberts Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, a position he still holds.

Daryle Busch’s research transcends basic transition-metal coordination chemistry. He is considered by many as the father of macrocyclic ligand chemistry, which sprung from his concept of molecular template effects in the mid-1950s. He was a founder of the subject of ligand reactions and an early researcher and proponent of bioinorganic chemistry. In 1970, he first described the phenomenon labeled by others as preorganization. In Kansas, Professor Busch not only expanded on his early seminal contributions to macrocyclic chemistry but also shed light on complex molecular interactions. He has shown that molecular organization (or as he puts it, intermolecular organization) is able to “knit and weave” molecular fabrics from molecules, chelates and cages. He also continues to make contributions to industrial fields, as exemplified by his work using different condensed media for reactions that can ultimately have practical purposes. In that regard, he currently serves as Deputy Director of the National Science Foundation, Engineering Research Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis.

His contributions continue to accumulate through all facets of science, including education and leadership. Professor Busch has made major contributions to university education, having taught thousands of undergraduates; guided over 200 Ph D and postdoctoral researchers; written three textbooks and numerous book chapters, articles, and reviews, for a total of well over 400 publications and over a dozen patents. His leadership is exemplified by his serving as President of the American Chemical Society in 2000 and on the Board of Directors from 1999 through 2001. He also led the Commission on Nomenclature of Inorganic Chemistry and served as Secretary of the Inorganic Division of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, and as Chair of the Chemistry Division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. While ACS president, Daryle brought the Green Chemistry Institute into the ACS and oversaw the establishment of the rules by which it operates. During his career he has served as consultant to a number of industrial companies, including Dupont, Monsanto, 3M, Air Products and Chemicals, and Procter & Gamble.

In summary, Daryle has made many seminal contributions to a basic understanding of chemical reactivity, in education, and in leadership. His research spans the fields of homogeneous catalysis, bioinorganic and supramolecular chemistry, as well environmentally benign catalysis. Professor Daryle H Busch is truly an eminent scholar.

Portrait of George Gokel

... and the 2007 winner was ...

Professor George Gokel received his B S in Chemistry from Tulane University (New Orleans, LA) in 1968, and his Ph D in Chemistry from the University of Southern California with I. K. Ugi in 1971. He did a postdoctoral fellowship with D J Cram at UCLA, 1972-1974. He served on the faculty at Penn State, Maryland, Miami, and Washington University prior to joining the University of Missouri–St Louis as Distinguished Professor in 2006.

In the past five years, Dr Gokel has developed a new family of anion-selective channels composed of amphiphilic peptides. His initial reports of chloride-selective transport were featured on Nature’s “Science Update” web site, March, 2002, and www.ChemWeb.com, March, 2002. The compounds have been demonstrated to mediate chloride transport in vital lung epithelial tissue. Efforts are underway to develop an aerosol drug delivery system for these compounds in the hope that they may be useful for symptomatic relief of cystic fibrosis.

Simultaneously, Dr Gokel was working to solidify the question of π interactions with alkali metal cations. Mass spectral and computational studies made clear that such interactions were possible but the solid state structures available were all opportunistic. It could be argued in most, if not all, cases that the cation was located in the observed position by crystal packing forces. Dr Gokel designed a receptor system that could be systematically varied structurally, sterically, and electronically, permitting him to probe the details of these cation-π interactions.

Dr Gokel is active in the scientific community. He is on the editorial boards of Chemical Communications, the New Journal of Chemistry, Supramolecular Chemistry, Letters in Organic Chemistry, and other journals. He served as editor of several journals for various periods, recently ending a three-year term as editor of New Journal of Chemistry. Indeed, the Journal recently honored his work with a first ever special issue.

Portrait of Jay Switzer

... and the 2006 winner was ...

... Jay A Switzer is the Donald L Castleman Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at the University of Missouri–Rolla (UMR). He is also a senior investigator in the Materials Research Center at UMR.

Switzer’s training in chemistry began in his early teens, when he produced pyrotechnics in his basement laboratory in Cincinnati. He received his B S in Chemistry from the University of Cincinnati in 1973, and his Ph D in inorganic chemistry from Wayne State University in 1979. His Ph D work with Professor John F Endicott was on the kinetics and mechanisms of electron transfer reactions.

Professor Switzer fell in love with electrochemistry in graduate school, and has spent most of his career finding excuses to use electrochemistry in his research. After receiving his Ph D, he joined Union Oil Company of California (UNOCAL) as a Senior Research Chemist. His research at UNOCAL was on photoelectrochemistry and the electrochemical processing of photovoltaic cells. In 1986, Dr Switzer joined the Materials Science and Engineering Department of the University of Pittsburgh as an Associate Professor. In 1990, he moved to UMR as a Professor of Chemistry. Switzer became a Curators’ Professor of Chemistry in 1994 and was appointed the Donald L Castleman Professor in 1999.

Switzer has pioneered the electrodeposition of nanostructured metal oxide semiconductors, magnetic materials, and catalysts. The goal behind this work is not to imitate vapor deposition, but to exploit the wet aspects of electrodeposition to produce epitaxial architectures which may not be accessible to UHV methods. He is best known for his research on the electrodeposition of ceramic superlattices1, epitaxial films2, and chiral catalysts3. Current research thrusts in the Switzer group include chiral electrochemical sensors, epitaxial electrodeposition of metal oxides, spintronics, and electrochemical biomineralization.

He has served on the editorial board of Chemistry of Materials and is presently a Principal Editor of the Journal of Materials Research. Professor Switzer received the Electrodeposition Award from The Electrochemical Society in 2003, and served as the chair of the Gordon Research Conference on Electrode Position in 2006.

  1. Science, 247, 444 (1990).
  2. Science, 284, 293 (1999).
  3. Nature, 425, 490 (2003).
Portrait of Jerry Atwood

... and the 2005 winner was ...

... Jerry Atwood. Born in rural Missouri and raised on a farm, he pursued undergraduate studies in chemistry and mathematics at Southwest Missouri State University. He undertook graduate studies in chemistry at the University of Illinois, where he worked with Galen Stucky. Upon completing his doctoral degree, he took a position as assistant professor at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. During the next 26 years, he rose to the rank of University Research Professor.

In 1994, he returned to his home state to head the Chemistry Department at the University of Missouri–Columbia and currently holds the rank of Curators’ Professor and Chair.

His discovery of liquid clathrates in 1969 led to fundamental contributions in aluminoxane chemistry and to the discovery of a method of stabilizing H3O+ in aromatic solutions. This work also provided the underpinnings of the current ionic liquid research.

The major themes of his recent work have involved the study of weak interactions and their use in synthesizing large molecular assemblies. In this arena, he first discovered organic clays, O–H····π hydrogen bonding involving water, the ordered water clusters, including (H2O)10, in a supramolecular environment, the selective binding of anions within the cavities of metallated calixarenes and related hosts, and a facile method of separating fullerenes by supramolecular complexation (with Prof. C L Raston).

In 1997, Prof Atwood published the discovery of a chiral spherical molecular capsule held together by 60 hydrogen bonds (with Prof L R MacGillivray). They quickly generalized this work to a strategy for the design of very large, spherical molecular capsules based on the geometrical principles of Plato and Archimedes. It is now possible to prepare such large supramolecular assemblies by design from simple molecular building blocks.

Another significant contribution was the description of control over supramolecular architecture, sphere or tubule, based on reagent stoichiometry. Thus, the same components may be formed into a sphere or a tubule by design.

In 2002, Prof Atwood (together with L J Barbour) published two studies in which a new view of porosity and the organic solid state are delineated. This work has been expanded in an Angewandte Chemie article published in 2004 (with Prof Barbour).

During his career, Atwood has authored or coauthored over 600 papers, patents, reviews, chapters, and books. Almost 100 of these papers appeared in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, and his work has appeared on the covers of both Science and Angewandte Chemie. Atwood also founded the Journal of Inclusion Phenomena and Supramolecular Chemistry. He is currently Associate Editor for Chemical Communications.

Portrait of Mark S Gordon

... and the 2004 winner was ...

Mark S Gordon, the recipient of this year’s Midwest Award of the American Chemical Society, grew up in and around New York City, received his BS, PhD and postdoctoral education at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Carnegie-Mellon University (with J A Pople) and Iowa State University (with K Ruedenberg). For 12 years on the chemistry faculty of North Dakota State University, he rose to Distinguished Professor and Department Chair. During his subsequent 12 years at Iowa State University, he has become Distinguished Professor, has been the associate Department Chair and is currently Director of the Applied Mathematics Program in the Ames Laboratory USDOE. He has been a visiting scientist at the University of California–Irvine, the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute, the National Science Foundation, the Molecular Science Institute (Okazaki, Japan), the University of Tokyo and the Australian National University. He has been the Chair of the Theoretical Chemistry Subdivision of the American Chemical Society, and the Secretary-Treasurer of its Physical Chemistry Division. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and a Fulbright Senior Scholar. He is on the editorial board of several journals.

Gordon’s over 380 publications in quantum chemistry have had significant impact and won worldwide recognition, among “real” chemists as well as theorists, for his unique blend of systematic elucidations of important bonding and reaction mechanistic problems on the one hand and effective ab-initio method developments on the other hand. The objects of his studies typically are potential energy surfaces, reaction paths, activation energies of transition states and reaction mechanisms.

Gordon has developed MCSCF centered methods, the Effective Fragment Method for solutions and liquids, a Molecular Orbital/Molecular Mechanics method for clusters on surfaces, and several spin-orbit coupling methods. His localized analyses of electronic wavefunctions extract chemical meanings from complex computations, especially for the benefit of the non-theoretical chemists. To pursue this comprehensive program, he has developed, maintains and continues to expand the premier open quantum chemistry program system GAMESS, which is used by several thousand scientists worldwide.

Gordon’s contributions cover many regions of the periodic table, notably carbon chemistry, silicon chemistry, organometallic chemistry and transition metal chemistry. He is particularly famous as a pioneer in elucidating how and why silicon chemistry differs from carbon chemistry. He discovered the near-isoergicity between silylenes and silenes; the small barriers for silylene insertion reactions; the pi-bonds of silicon with itself as well as carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur, including triple bonds; silicon’s participation in aromatic systems; structure and strain of small rings and clusters containing silicon; geometric and electronic structures of molecules containing pentavalent silicon; reaction paths of pseudorotational isomerizations between axial and equatorial atoms. He has extended this work to germanium, tin and titanium.

Gordon has furthermore complemented his gas phase investigations by realistic studies of reactions in solution as well as on solid surfaces. His solvation theory has accurately produced metalloenzyme UV shifts, chemical reactions, protein pKas, and electrolyte dissociation dependence on solvation coordination. His surface model has yielded correct structures of Si surfaces and revealed mechanisms for reactions on this surface including oxidation, etching and addition of various substrates. Notwithstanding the many complex mathematical and computational aspects of his investigations, it is the chemistry that drives all of Professor Gordon’s work.

Portrait of Kristin Bowman-James

... and the 2003 winner was ...

Professor Kristin Bowman-James of the University of Kansas, the recipient of the 59th American Chemical Society Midwest Regional Award, was educated at Temple University and at the Israel Institute of Technology and Ohio State University. She joined the chemistry faculty of the University of Kansas in 1975. She has been a visiting researcher at the Université Louis Pasteur in France with the Nobel laureate Jean-Marie Lehn, and at the California Institute of Technology with Harry Gray. She served as chair of the Kansas Department of Chemistry from 1995 to 2001.

Professor Bowman-James’s achievements have earned her a number of awards, most recently the Iota Sigma Pi Award for Professional Excellence (2002), the American Chemical Society Women Chemists Committee Award for Diversity (2002), and the Dolph Simons Sr Award for Research Achievement in the Biomedical Sciences (2002).

Bowman-James’s research in molecular recognition is a major basis for the Midwest Award. Her professional colleagues in this area noted the she is ‘one of the world’s leading experts” in supramolecular chemistry who has had a “valuable impact on my own thinking and that of many others”; that her work on metal-based phosphate cleavage has “set a standard for artificial enzyme efficiency that has rarely been surpassed.” Others praised her “intellectual agility and creativity in moving into new areas,” such as the “long-known but largely neglected area of anion complexation.” They pointed out that she “jump-started” research in this area by the paradigmatic power of her idea of a fruitful analogy between ligand-anion and metal-anion recognition.

Bowman-James has also contributed to public understanding and support of chemistry and chemical education through service to the Council on Chemical Research, the American Chemical Society, and research support agencies of the US Government. She is a leader in advancing the cause of diversity and inclusiveness in chemistry. Following her work as its chair, the Kansas Chemistry Department now has a larger fraction of women faculty members than any other American department.

Portrait of Michael Gross

... and the 2002 winner was ...

The 58th ACS Midwest Award winner, Professor Michael Gross, boasts a distinguished academic career first at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (1968–94) and, since 1994, at Washington University in St Louis.

Mike has authored over 400 scientific articles and book chapters, edited or co-edited four books, and trained over 80 graduate students, postdoctoral associates, and staff.

Mike’s notable contributions to the field of mass spectrometry began early in his career and include the first observation of a gas-phase distonic ion and the discovery of “charge-remote fragmentation.” He demonstrated the feasibility of GC/high-resolving-power MS analysis at the parts-per-trillion level, a technique that led Mike and EPA coworkers to the discovery that dioxin (2,3,7,8-TCDD) had accumulated in the tissues of Vietnam veterans who had handled the herbicide Agent Orange. For this contribution Mike was awarded the “Pioneer Award—in search of the health consequences of dioxin in the environment.”

Mike commissioned the first analytical three-sector tandem mass spectrometer, and published over 100 articles demonstrating that tandem MS was to be an important tool in biology. One of these manuscripts reports the first sequencing by tandem MS of a peptide of unknown structure. With coworker Charles Wilkins, Mike built the second FT-ICR mass spectrometer in the late 1970s and went on to demonstrate a number of significant analytical applications such as GC/FTMS, laser desorption FTMS, high-pressure trapping in FTMS, and the algorithm for exact mass measurements.

Current research has as goals the development of a low-magnetic field MALDI instrument that employs high-pressure focusing, the use of H/D exchange to understand protein/ligand interactions, and the use of mass spectrometry in cancer research.

Mike is editor of the Journal of the American Society of Mass Spectrometry (since 1990), and former editor of Mass Spectrometry Reviews (1982–1990) and was recently awarded the ACS Field and Franklin Award in Mass Spectrometry.

Portrait of Vasu Nair

... and the 2001 winner was ...

Vasu Nair, Professor of Organic Chemistry at the University of Iowa, has been selected to receive the 2001 Midwest Award of the American Chemical Society. Nair received his PhD degree in Natural Products Chemistry in 1966 from the University of Adelaide, Australia. Postdoctoral fellowships followed with Professor Nelson Leonard of the University of Illinois in 1967–68 and with Professor RB Woodward of Harvard University in 1968–69. Nair joined the faculty of the University of Iowa during the 1969–70 academic year as an Assistant Professor. Since 1993, he has been University of Iowa Foundation Distinguished Professor of Chemistry.

In a career that spans three decades at the University of Iowa, Vasu Nair and his coworkers have made seminal contributions in the synthetic organic chemistry of heterocyclic compounds, in particular the synthesis of nucleosides, nucleotides and their analogs. In recent years, Nair has put this expertise to good use by directing a program of synthesis and evaluation of inhibitors of the viral enzymes reverse transcriptase and integrase.

The Nair group has synthesized and evaluated dideoxynucleosides and -nucleotides that are potent inhibitors of HIV reverse transcriptase and that show clinical promise in the treatment of AIDS. They have been among the world leaders in the synthesis of compounds that potently inhibit another important HIV target, the integrase enzyme. This work1 is a notable achievement, as few groups have any success in inhibiting this enzyme. The potential is obvious for use of integrase inhibitors in combination therapies for combating HIV.

  1. J Amer Chem Soc, 122, 5671-5677 (2000).