Chemistry Chair Recognized By American Chemical Society
Published: Sunday, October 6, 2013
Updated: Sunday, October 6, 2013 23:10
“Humans need to master the laws of nature and appreciate her subtleties for many reasons, if not only for eradicating suffering and diseases,” said Amir Hoveyda, the Joseph T. and Patricia Vanderslice Millenium professor of chemistry and chair of the department. “Chemistry, biology and physics are as important and as life-giving as Shakespeare, Proust, Picasso, Goya, Bach and Beethoven.”
Hoveyda is, most recently, the winner of the 2014 American Chemical Society award for Creative Work in synthetic organic chemistry. The American Chemical society announced the award following their recent meeting in Indianapolis.
The Aldrich Chemical Company has sponsored the award since the 1970s. It consists of $5,000 and a certificate of achievement. Hoveyda will receive his award in March at the American Chemical Society’s annual meeting in Dallas.
Hoveyda received the award for his research group’s development of various catalysts. These catalysts are used in research and industrial labs to prepare molecules, and in particular, those molecules used often in health care.
The award reinforces Hoveyda’s status in the chemistry community—Thomson Reuters recognized Hoveyda as one of the world’s Top 100 Chemists from 2000-10.
Moreover, this award brings greater meaning for Hoveyda because of its unique history.
“This is the oldest and perhaps the most prestigious award in the field of organic synthesis,” Hoveyda said in an email. “The first winner in 1957, R. B. Woodward, is considered widely as one of the foremost pioneers of organic chemistry. E. J. Corey, another living giant, received it a couple of years later. The list is loaded by Nobel laureates and those who have had a lasting impact on the field of chemistry.
“To be on that list is first and foremost a testimony to the creativity, scholarship, dedication, and perseverance of generations of doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows who have been members of my research group during the last 23 years,” Hoveyda said.
Hoveyda’s research, though, never centered around recognition: “My goal has never been and will never be to win this or any award,” he said.
Hoveyda recognized “the quality and dedication of the students … (along with) the quality of my colleagues in my department. That is critical. As is the continued aggressive support of the university for fundamental research and creative teaching at the highest level.”
While Hoveyda will be the only individual recognized for the work, an entire generation of his students contributed to the success.
Even with the continued support and help of those around him, there are obstacles. Preconceived notions and inappropriate expectations continue to plague the sciences, Hoveyda said.
“The most difficult part is the diminishing appreciation of our society and its administrators, particularly those in our increasingly dysfunctional government, regarding the fundamental significance of physical sciences to the quality of life and the happiness that future generations will be able to enjoy,” Hoveyda said.
“The growingly myopic view that every piece of research must pay dividend fast is at best naive and perhaps nothing but foolish—much of the greatest technology that we benefit from every day is based on research in basic sciences in the past.”
Despite all his success and knowledge of chemistry, Hoveyda still cannot predict the future in the evolving field of synthetic chemistry.
“I had no idea we would be working on what we are today and I sure hope the same is true even more five years from now,” he said.
Breakthrough advancements in chemistry are coming constantly. To have a clear idea of one’s next discovery today would be an admission that the research will not be truly groundbreaking tomorrow.
“If I knew and I could tell you now then I would probably not do it,” he said. “I constantly hope for more and more great and unexpected discoveries—more gifts from mother nature, which only happens to the most prepared minds.”