Professors recognized by American Chemical Society

February 14, 2019 By Stephanie Blaszczyk

Five University of Wisconsin–Madison professors have earned prestigious awards from the American Chemical Society (ACS). With more than 156,000 members, ACS is the largest scientific society in the world.

Catherine Middlecamp, a professor in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and interim director for academics and research in the Office of Sustainability, was recognized with the George C. Pimentel Award in Chemical Education for engaging faculty and students in teaching and learning college chemistry in a manner that reflects the issues of people, their communities and the planet. Her research program and classroom offerings promote more sustainable practices on campus and throughout society.

Ive Hermans, the John and Dorothy Vozza Professor of Chemistry, and Manos Mavrikakis, the Paul A. Elfers Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, were both selected to receive awards for their work in catalysis. Catalysis helps create approximately 80 percent of the products consumers encounter in their lives, but the reaction mechanisms of numerous catalysts, even those employed in industry for many years, are still poorly understood.

Hermans, also a professor of chemical and biological engineering, won the Ipatieff Prize for his research on the clean and energy-efficient conversion of raw materials to more complex products, such as the conversion of natural gas to building blocks for plastics. Hermans’ group strives to better understand complex reaction mechanisms and to design energy efficient processes, both of which are essential for sustainable chemistry and catalysis.

Mavrikakis was recognized with the Gabor A. Somorjai Award for Creative Research in Catalysis for creatively combining computer-based techniques that simulate molecular structure and reactivity with experiments that provide insight into the nature of the active site during catalytic reactions and help identify improved catalysts. Mavrikakis’s work enables more efficient energy use in the fuel and chemical industries and the development of cutting-edge technologies, such as fuel cells.

Professor of Chemistry Tehshik Yoon was named winner of one of the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Awards, which recognize excellence in organic chemistry, for his contributions to photoredox catalysis. Photoredox catalysis is an environmentally friendly process that harnesses the power of light to accelerate reactions unable to be performed by traditional chemical methods. Specifically, Yoon’s research group designs catalysts that promote specific reaction outcomes in photochemical synthesis.

Robert McMahon, a professor of chemistry, was also recognized as winner of an Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award for his studies of the structures and reactivity patterns in foundational organic molecules. McMahon’s research program explores basic aspects of organic chemistry in the context of harsh reaction conditions, which include extreme temperatures and electrical discharges, such as lightning strikes. These studies allow the McMahon group to better understand the chemical processes that occur in natural environments, like flames, the atmosphere and space.

Middlecamp, Hermans and Mavrikakis will be honored at the ACS national meeting in Orlando, Florida, on April 2, while Yoon and McMahon will deliver awards addresses at the Arthur C. Cope Symposium during the fall 2019 national meeting in San Diego, California.