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January 18, 2010

Three scientists named fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Three University researchers have been named fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society and the publisher of the journal Science.


Robert Boeckman, who is the Marshall D. Gates, Jr. Professor of Chemistry and chair of the Department of Chemistry; William Jones, the C. F. Houghton Professor of Chemistry; and Lukas Novotny, professor in the Institute of Optics, will each be presented with an official certificate and a gold and blue pin on Saturday, February 20 at the 2010 AAAS Annual Meeting in San Diego, Calif.

This year 531 scholars around the nation have been awarded this honor by AAAS because of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.

Boeckman was named by the society for his “distinguished contributions to the development of practical methods of organic synthesis, including asymmetric synthesis and the total synthesis of complex biologically active natural products.”

“Bob has been at the forefront of discovering improved methods for the synthesis of organic compounds for many years, and it is most fitting that he receives this recognition,” says Joanna Olmsted, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences.

Boeckman’s research has focused on new ways to construct complex organic molecules controlling the three-dimensional spatial arrangement of atoms. He develops and employs new organometallic chemistry to selectively construct or transform complex molecules. Using the methods developed by Boeckman, organic chemists are able to construct complex molecules possessing precise three-dimensional structures that can function as molecular probes of the interaction of small molecules with proteins and nucleic acids. The molecules can serve as prototypes or leads in the development of humanpharmaceutical agents.


Jones was named for his work focusing on chemically converting the hydrocarbons in petroleum directly into more valuable materials that are used in end products like medicines, plastics, or other fuels. The key is in finding efficient ways to break and reform the bonds between hydrogen and carbon in petroleum. This is currently done with an elaborate process that demands multiple costly chemical plants, each taking the conversion process forward one step at a time. Jones is trying to find a way to take several steps in a single leap, thereby possibly saving millions of dollars in the refining process.

“Bill Jones is an extraordinarily talented organometallic chemist,” says Boeckman, chair of the Department of Chemistry. “He has few peers in terms of his experimental skill and insight. Bill has compiled an enviable body of research at the forefront of C-H activation chemistry, and his elegant mechanistic work has been among the most significant contributions to our understanding of these important processes.”


Lukas Novotny studies light-matter interactions on the nanometer scale. He is developing optical antennas to increase the sensitivity of photodetectors and to boost the efficiency of light-emitting devices. Using optical antennas, his research team developed a novel microscopic technique with which they have recorded the highest resolution optical images ever, a picture of a carbon nanotube only a few nanometers across and individual proteins in a cell’s membrane.

“Lukas Novotny is a pioneer in the field of nano-optics. His work in imaging extremely small objects like carbon nanotubes and viruses has paved the way for breakthroughs in fields such as medicine and electronics. He is also an excellent research mentor and an inspiring teacher for our students,” said Wayne Knox, director of the University’s Institute of Optics.

The AAAS was founded in 1848 and includes 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Its journal, Science, has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million.

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