University of Rochester

Two Chemists Named Fellows of the American Chemical Society

August 17, 2009

The American Chemical Society (ACS) has elected two University of Rochester chemists as fellows. Robert K. Boeckman, Jr., the Marshall D. Gates, Jr. Professor of Chemistry and chair of the Department of Chemistry, and Richard Eisenberg, the Tracy H. Harris Professor of Chemistry, join 160 other esteemed chemical scientists from around the world in the first class of fellows for the ACS. They will be officially recognized in a ceremony today at the ACS national meeting in Washington D.C.

The ACS Fellows Program was created last year to recognize members of the ACS for their outstanding scientific achievements, as well as contributions to the profession, the chemistry community, and the Society.

The new fellows "share a common set of accomplishments, namely true excellence in their contributions to the chemical enterprise coupled with distinctive service to ACS or to the broader world of chemistry," says Immediate Past-President Bruce E. Bursten, who championed creation of the program.

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 catalysis and organocatalyis methods to selectively construct or transform complex molecules. Using the methods developed by Boeckman, organic and medicinal 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 human pharmaceutical agents.

Boeckman earned his doctorate in chemistry from Brandeis University and was a professor of chemistry at Wayne State University in Detroit before coming to the University of Rochester in 1980. In 2002, he was named the Marshall D. Gates Jr. Professor of Chemistry and has chaired the Department of Chemistry since 2003. He has been chair of the Organic Division of the American Chemical Society, and is currently an associate editor of the Journal of Organic Chemistry, and the vice president of Organic Syntheses, Inc., a nonprofit organization that publishes selected organic synthetic procedures that are independently checked for use by the organic synthesis research community in academia and industry. He also has received an A. P. Sloan Fellowship (1976-'80), a National Institutes of Health Career Development Award (1976-'81), and the Alexander Von Humbolt Stiftung Senior Faculty Research Prize (1996-'97). More recently, he was awarded the ACS Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award in 2006.

Eisenberg has contributed to the education of hundreds of chemists through his efforts at the University, and has served the community as chairman of the Gordon Research Conference on Organometallic Chemistry, as chair of the American Chemical Society Inorganic Chemistry Division, and as Editor-in-Chief of the American Chemical Society journal Inorganic Chemistry.

Some of Eisenberg's work that has earned him this honor involves inorganic photochemistry, chemistry that underlies light-to-chemical energy conversion, and organometallic chemistry related to catalytic reactions done by the chemical industry. His career-long broad research interests have paved the way to important studies in light driven reactions of organometallic complexes toward water conversion to hydrogen, which is the critical transformation required for the development of solar fuel cells.

Eisenberg earned his doctoral degree in chemistry from Columbia University in 1967. He joined the University in 1973 and served as chair of the chemistry department from 1991 to 1994. He has been the recipient of numerous awards, including an A. P. Sloan Fellowship (1972-'74) and a Guggenheim Fellowship (1977-'78). More recently, he has been honored with the 2003 ACS Award for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry, the 2007 Morley Medal presented by the Cleveland ACS Section. He was elected as fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2005 and as fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009.

ACS fellows are elected from the organization's membership and the chemical enterprise—including high school teaching, entrepreneurship, government service, and all sectors of industry and academia. Academic chemists make up 72 percent of the new class of fellows with 15 percent from industry, 7 percent retired nonacademic, 5 percent government, and 1 percent consultants.