University of Rochester

Chemistry Professor Wins Award for Petroleum Research

October 23, 2008

William D. Jones, the C. F. Houghton Professor of Chemistry at the University of Rochester, will receive an American Chemical Society Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award for his achievements in chemically converting the hydrocarbons in petroleum directly into more valuable materials that are used in end products such as medicines, plastics or other fuels. The award, which will be presented at the 238th American Chemical Society National Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., next year, carries with it a $5,000 cash prize as well as a $40,000 unrestricted research grant.

Jones is being honored for his many major contributions to the field of organometallic chemistry during his 27 years at the University, specifically for his fundamental studies of new transformations of bonds in petrochemicals, which have opened the door to exciting applications in synthesis and catalysis. Organometallic chemistry is the study of chemical compounds containing bonds between carbon and metal, and has found many applications in "green" chemistry.

"Bill Jones is one of the most accomplished mechanistic organometallic chemists in the world," says Maurice Brookhart, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry at the University of North Carolina. "He has addressed problems of enormous significance and his penetrating analyses and the deep insights gained from these studies have taught us not only new concepts and new ways to think about bond activations, but also new ways to mechanistically dissect such problems."

Jones focuses on finding efficient ways to break and reform the bonds between hydrogen and carbon in petroleum. This is currently done with an elaborate process that requires multiple costly chemical plants, each taking the conversion process forward one step at a time. Jones works to find a way to take several steps in a single leap, thereby possibly saving millions of dollars in the refining process.

Jones earned his doctorate in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 1979 before coming to the University of Rochester in 1980. Since then, he's been the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, Fulbright-Hays Scholarship, a Royal Society Guest Research Fellowship, the ACS Award in Organometallic Chemistry, and a Fellowship Award from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. He also serves as an associate editor for the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the most highly cited chemistry journal in the world.