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BC Chemistry Professor Dies from COVID-19 Complications

Chia-Kuang “Frank” Tsung, an associate chemistry professor at Boston College, died on Jan. 5 at the age of 44 from complications due to COVID-19, according to a University release.

“Frank was a gifted teacher, a creative scientist, a generous collaborator, and an integral contributor to our physical chemistry group,” said Dean of MCAS Gregory Kalscheur, S.J., in the release. “He brought energy, enthusiasm, and a positive spirit to his service as the Chemistry Department’s graduate program director, and that same energy and enthusiasm characterized all of my interactions with him.”

Tsung, a native of Taiwan, received a bachelor’s degree from National Sun Yat-sen University and a doctorate from the University of California at Santa Barbara, according to the release. 

Since becoming a BC faculty member in 2010, the release said, Tsung played a key role in nanotechnology research which made important contributions to battling cancer and helped find solutions to the global energy shortage. Beyond Tsung’s research, his colleagues recognized him as an accomplished educator and mentor within the BC community.

In a statement to The Heights, Associate Vice President for University Communications Jack Dunn said that Tsung was a gifted scholar and a beloved teacher, advisor, and mentor whose life was taken far too soon due to complications from COVID-19.

“Dr. Tsung experienced cold-like symptoms in October while at home, and quarantined as a precaution in accordance with University and public health guidelines,” Dunn said. “He was later diagnosed with COVID-19 by his primary care provider and hospitalized. Despite a valiant fight, he succumbed to the virus on January 5. Dr. Tsung was never on the BC campus while ill.”

“In addition to being an accomplished scientist, Frank was an excellent teacher, a compassionate adviser, and a kind and generous colleague,” said Dunwei Wang, Vanderslice professor of chemistry and department chair, in the release. 

Wang said in an email to The Heights that Tsung’s passing has shocked the chemistry family and caused tremendous pain.

“He was too young to be taken away like this,” Wang said. “We will forever remember him as a passionate scientist, a compassionate mentor, an energetic teacher, and a caring friend.” 

Tsung belonged to a team of chemists that developed a catalytic system to convert carbon dioxide to methanol, which could allow more efficient access to alternative fuels, chemicals, and pharmaceutical products, the release said. 

According to the release, Tsung was also involved in the development of a cage of chemical bonds that could be used as a drug delivery mechanism, which aimed to improve the efficiency of drugs that fight against diseases such as cancer. 

Tsung also worked on a project to develop a “smarter catalyst” that is better able to regulate chemical reactions in an effort to reduce byproducts and waste.

Wang said that the chemistry department has been in contact with Tsung’s family, and that a virtual memorial service will be held later this month to celebrate his life and work. Tsung is survived by his sister, Frances Tsung, according to the release.

“We mourn his passing, and extend our condolences to his sister, Frances, his extended family in Taiwan, and his many friends and admirers within the BC community,” Dunn said in an email to The Heights. 

Applied Materials and Interfaces, or a peer-reviewed scientific journal established by the American Chemical Society, will honor Tsung in an issue later this year, according to Wang, and additional events will be held to remember Frank in the near future.

“His passion for science and education has been and will remain an inspiration for us all,” Wang said in the release. “We’ll forever miss him.”

Update 1/15/21 at 6:30 p.m. EST: This article was updated to reflect a statement from Chemistry Department Chair Dunwei Wang and a statement from Associate Vice President for University Communications Jack Dunn.

Featured Image by Maddy Romance / Heights Editor

January 15, 2021