A Banner Year Continues for Chemistry Department

A Banner Year Continues for Chemistry Department

Faculty and students alike landing prestigious fellowships, awards

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

Boston College has good chemistry, to judge from the recent success of faculty and students in landing distinguished and competitive fellowships related to that discipline.

Prof. Scott Miller has received the American Chemical Society's Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award for excellence in organic chemistry.

The Cope Scholar Award carries with it $5,000, a certificate, and a $40,000 unrestricted research grant. As an award winner, Miller will address the society's Arthur C. Cope Symposium in Philadelphia next August.

Miller becomes the third BC chemist in eight years to be named a Cope Scholar, joining Vanderslice Millennium Professor Amir Hoveyda (Cope Scholar 1998) and Vanderslice Professor T. Ross Kelly (Cope Senior Scholar 1996).

The Cope Scholar Award is the latest to recognize Miller's research on chemical catalysts that speed production of complex molecules used in pharmaceuticals.

Earlier this year, Miller received the Pfizer Award for Creativity in Organic Chemistry, which carries with it $100,000 in research support over a two-year period.

A post-doctoral student in Miller's group, Jason Imbriglio, has received a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award, given by the National Institutes of Health to support specialized research training.

Departmental veteran Prof. Lawrence Scott was recently elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in recognition of his contributions to the rational syntheses of closed geodesic polyarenes and related bowls, baskets, belts and tubes.

A newcomer this year to the Chemistry faculty, Asst. Prof. Steven Bruner '95, has won a New Faculty Award from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation. He is one of 10 in the nation to receive the award, which provides $40,000 to young chemistry professors at the outset of their careers in teaching and research.

Bruner's research focuses on natural drug synthesis: "A majority of medicines used to fight disease originate from natural sources," he says. "Plants and microorganisms produce a large variety of natural molecules with beneficial properties. An emerging problem in medicine, in particular the field of antibiotics, is the development of disease-causing microbes that are resistant to the available drugs. An attractive solution to this problem is to develop new antibiotics by manipulating the DNA code. Changes in the genetic code can result in the production of new medicines that will kill drug-resistant bacteria or produce novel drugs to fight virtually any disease.

"In order to engineer novel drug-producing organisms, a detailed understanding of the natural mechanism of drug synthesis must be known. Our research studies the protein machines responsible for synthesis using a variety of techniques. Structural biology is a method that uses X-ray radiation to examine the structure of proteins at the detail of individual atoms. In combination with specific, designed molecules that mimic the building blocks of the natural products, this technique yields exquisite details of the inner workings of these machines."

Previous Dreyfus New Faculty Award winners on the BC Chemistry faculty include Prof. John Fourkas (1995) and Asst. Prof. Shana O. Kelley (2000).

"It is a tremendous honor to be recognized by my colleagues in the Chemistry community, especially this early in my career," said Bruner, who recently added a $300,000 Damon Runyon Scholarship grant to his honors [see "Around Campus"]. "The award will be a great help to jump-start my research program."

Two BC doctoral students in chemistry have won graduate fellowships from the Organic Chemistry Division of the American Chemical Society, which awards fewer than 20 of the fellowships annually in a rigorous competition among candidates from the nation's best universities.

A third chemistry doctoral student, Jay G. Slowik of Prof. Paul Davidovits' group, has won a NASA Earth System Science Fellowship that provides $24,000 annually for three years.

Elizabeth S. Sattely of Hoveyda's group and Adam J. Morgan of Miller's group won the prized fellowships in organic chemistry that support doctoral students in their third or fourth year of study.

"For BC students to land two of these coveted awards in the same year is absolutely stunning, and will reinforce the nationwide consensus that our program is now one of the finest in the country," said Scott.

This brings to nine the number of graduate fellowships in organic chemistry BC students have won in the American Chemical Society competition during the past 10 years, said Scott.

"That's a pretty good record, considering that close to 200 universities in the United States have chemistry Ph.D programs, and fewer than 20 fellowships are awarded every year," he said.


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