Chemist wins major grants

By Michael Seele
Chronicle Editor

Asst. Prof. John Fourkas (Chemistry) has won two major grants totaling $270,000 in recognition of his early career work and future promise as a scientist.

The National Science Foundation awarded Fourkas its prestigious Career Award, formerly known as the Presidential Young Investigator Award. The grant provides $65,000 per year for three years, plus a $50,000 component for laboratory equipment purchases. The highly competitive award is presented only to non-tenured scientists in the first four years of their careers. Fourkas joined the Chemistry Department last September.

He was also named winner of the $25,000 Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation New Faculty Award. Though the award is smaller than the NSF grant, it is no less prestigious; only 10 are presented each year.

"John has brought a tremendous new energy into the department, which has been appreciated by all of us," said Prof. Paul Davidovits, the Chemistry chairman. "These awards are a great honor, both to him and to the department."

Fourkas is a physical chemist whose research focuses on gaining a better understanding of liquids, and therefore, of chemical reactions in general. By containing tiny quantities of liquids in confined spaces and pulsing billionth-of-a-millionth-of-a-second laser beams through them, Fourkas hopes to develop techniques to control their molecular structure.

Though much is known about how liquids behave in large quantities, Fourkas said surprisingly little is known about how they behave on the molecular level. He hopes to be able to design materials that will help control how liquids act and determine how much space confinement affects their behavior.

"The NSF grant gets my research started and gets the pressure off," Fourkas said. "Frequently, you need results before you can get grants of this size, so it's been a valuable start. The Dreyfus award is smaller, but has been very valuable in buying equipment to get the lab started."

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