Former University of Rochester doctoral student Pingwu Du and his doctoral advisor, Richard Eisenberg, have been awarded the 2011 Nobel Laureate Signature Award for Graduate Education in Chemistry by the American Chemical Society.
They won the award for their work on developing new systems for producing hydrogen from water using sunlight. The conversion of solar energy into stored fuels such as hydrogen is a key objective in the development of alternative energy technologies. Current hydrogen production is insufficient for widespread energy use and is based on natural gas. It also produces carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, and is unable on a long-term basis to satisfy the demand for hydrogen as a major fuel. Eisenberg's studies focus on an artificial version of photosynthesis – the process by which plants use the sun's energy – to produce hydrogen directly from water.
Du graduated from the University of Rochester in 2009 with his doctorate in chemistry, during which time he co-authored with Eisenberg 11 publications in the leading journals of the field. He is now a postdoctoral associate at MIT where he works on fluorescent chemosensors and their applications in biology.
Eisenberg is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In May, he received the University of Rochester's Lifetime Achievement Award in Graduate Education. To date, he has advised 37 graduate students through their doctorates and mentored 46 postdoctoral fellows. He is also a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Chemical Society. He is the editor-in-chief of the journal Inorganic Chemistry, published by the American Chemical Society, which is the leading journal in its field.
Eisenberg and Du will be presented with the award on March 29, in conjunction with the 241st annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Anaheim, Calif. Both winners will receive $3,000 and a plaque inscribed with the signatures of Nobel Laureates. The award was established in 1978 by Mallinckrodt Baker Inc., which still sponsors the award.