With years of training in the natural elements, their composition, and their properties, chemists can hold an array of jobs in modern society. Chemistry is a basic scientific composition in many fields, including biochemistry, medicine, and theoretical chemistry. Within the area of study, there are many options for degrees and professional pursuits. Thus, selecting just ten outstanding chemists is a daunting task. Nonetheless, this group made the list through their profound impact in the world of science.
Charles Lieber, Ph.D. — Pioneering Nanoscience and Nanotechnology
As a pioneer of nanoscience and nanotechnology, Charles Lieber has conducted ground-breaking research in the field. He earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Franklin & Marshall College and his Ph.D. in chemistry from Stanford University. Currently, he is the Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University, continuously producing cutting edge research. Lieber is also the founder of Nanosys, Inc. and Vista Therapeutics.
He has published research on nanomaterials synthesis, understanding nanostructure, nanoelectronics for biology, and medicine. His current research focuses on understanding brain science through nanoelectronics. He also pioneered the development of various nanomaterials to be used in a variety of situations. Additionally, Lieber earned a plethora of awards such as NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, the John Gamble Kirkwood Award, the Remsen Award, and the Wolf Prize in Chemistry, among many others.
Of note, he is also a part of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine. Moreover, he is an elected Foreign Member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Lieber’s work is often cited by his peers, and he is the principal inventor on over 50 patents. He has played a significant role in commercializing nanotechnology.
Outstanding Chemist: Read about Charles Lieber.
Mark E. Thompson, Ph.D. — Awarded Organic Chemist
Mark Thompson is the Ray R. Irani Chair of Chemistry at the University of Southern California. Additionally, his current areas of research include organic photovoltaics, organic light emitting diodes, and biotic/abiotic interfacing. Of note, he completed his undergraduate work at UC Berkeley and earned his Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry from the California Institute of Technology.
For his work, he has received numerous recognitions. His collection includes the Nishizawa Medal from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the USC Associates Award for Excellence in Research, the National Academy of Inventors Fellow, and the Tolman Award, to name a few. Additionally, he published more than 300 peer-reviewed articles and has more than 130 patents in molecular and polymeric materials.
Moreover, Thompson’s research is vital to the development of further renewable energy sources. It also has the ability to be useful in large-scale biosensors for inexpensive detection. Thomson hopes his work will eventually lead to the ability to control molecular structures, and thus properties, very efficiently. As such, it may reduce the cost of solar panels and lessen our dependence on fossil fuels.
Outstanding Chemist: Read about Mark E. Thompson.
Paul Alivisatos, Ph.D. — Enhancing Nanoscience and Nanotechnology
A specialist in nanoscience and nanotechnology, Paul Alivisatos laid the foundation for research on the physical chemistry of nanocrystals. This work is key to understanding renewable energy and have biomedical applications. Alivisatos was one of the first to show that semiconductor nanocrystal can grow into two-dimensional shapes, as opposed to simple one-dimensional ones. He was awarded the Dan David Prize, the National Medal of Science, and the Wolf Prize, to name a few.
He graduated with a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from UC Berkeley. Currently, Alivisatos is his alma mater's Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost. Moreover, he is also the Founding Director of the Kavli Energy Nanoscience Institute and Director Emeritus of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Plus, he runs the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, among other positions.
Furthermore, Alivisatos was actively involved in the U.S. Department of Energy's Nanoscale Science Research Center establishment of Molecular Foundry. He is also the founding editor of Nano Letters, published by the American Chemical Society. Additionally, he founded Quantum Dot Corporation, which makes nanoscale tags to study the behavior of cells. Alivisatos is also the founder of Nanosys and Solexant.
Outstanding Chemist: Read about Paul Alivisatos.
Catherine Murphy, Ph.D. — Researching Reusable Energy Nanomaterials
Currently a Larry Faulkner Endowed Chair in Chemistry, Catherine Murphy is a professor at the University of Illinois. Interestingly, she holds two bachelor’s degrees from the University of Illinois in biochemistry and chemistry. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin and was both an NSF and NIH Fellow at the California Institute of Technology.
Murphy takes a multi-disciplinary approach to her research with the intent to develop inorganic nanomaterials for both biological and reusable energy uses. Moreover, she aims to gain an understanding of how those nanomaterials relate to and interact with their environment. Her research interests span the lengths of synthesis, properties, chemical sensing, and biological applications and environmental implications of colloidal inorganic nanomaterials.
In addition to her tenure and research, Murphy helped write a textbook. Beyond that, she holds numerous recognitions. She was elected a Fellow for the American Association for the Advancement of Science and to the National Academy of Sciences. Other fellowships under her belt include with the Materials Research Society and with the Royal Society of Chemistry. Murphy also ranked number ten on the “Top 100 Materials Scientists of 2000-2010.” Furthermore, she won the TREE Award and the Carol Tyler Award from the International Precious Metals Institute.
Outstanding Chemist: Read about Catherine Murphy.
Eric Jacobsen, Ph.D. — Discovering Catalytic Reactions
At Harvard University, Eric Jacobsen directs a research lab that works to discover and use catalytic reactions in practical applications. Additionally, Jacobsen served as both a professor and as Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University. Of note, he received his bachelor’s degree from New York University and his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley.
Some of the catalysts developed in Jacobsen’s lab are used in both industry and academic settings. These include catalysts such as asymmetric epoxidation, hydrolytic kinetic resolution and desymmetrization of epoxides, asymmetric pericyclic reactions, and asymmetric additions to imines. Moreover, his research has been cited and used by many others in their attempt to better understand the mechanisms and analysis of catalytic reactions.
Jacobsen holds many achievements. The shortlist includes being the recipient of the Bristol-DTC-Syngenta Award, the NIH Merit Award, the ACS H.C. Brown Award for Synthetic Methods, the Nagoya Gold Medal Prize, the Remsen Award, the Chirality Medal, and the Phi Beta Kappa Teaching Prize. Also, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.
Outstanding Chemist: Read about Eric Jacobsen.
Valery Fokin, Ph.D. — Enhancing Medical Research
As a professor and researcher at USC, Valery Fokin runs a lab in the Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience. The goal there is to understand the molecular workings of human disease by identifying what sets them apart from normal physiological workings. His research focuses on chemical reactivity and how that can be applied to chemistry, biology, and materials science disciplines. Most importantly, he focuses on understanding the features of human disease to develop better treatments. Understanding this will allow for better, more effective treatments of a variety of illnesses.
Of note, Fokin received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Calvin College. However, his current tenure began after his Ph.D. work at USC. Moreover, his ties to the university run deeply. Because he believes in the power of collaboration with his peers, he is part of The [email protected], where he holds a lead role.
The initiative aims to bring together the best in a variety of scientific and cinematic fields with an end goal of building the first virtual model of the human body at the atomic level. This would test potential treatments for a variety of illnesses. Furthermore, it would be a monumental development that would allow for more accurate treatment of a plethora of diseases.
Outstanding Chemist: Read about Valery Fokin.
Stephen Buchwald, Ph.D. — Outstanding Organic Chemist
As one half of the Buchwald-Hartwing animation, an organic chemistry reaction, and famous for discovering the dialkyl biaryl phosphine ligand family, Stephen Buchwald made his mark in chemistry. He currently leads The Buchwald Research Group at MIT, which focuses on discovering new organic chemistry processes such as carbon-carbon bond formation.
Of note, he received his bachelor’s degree from Brown and his Ph.D. from Harvard. Also, he holds an Honorary Doctorate from the University of South Florida
His most recent award was the 2018 Tetrahedron Prize in Organic Chemistry. However, he also received the CAS Science Spotlight Award, the Bristol-Meyers Squibb, and the William H. Nichols Medal, to name a few recognitions. Buchwald was also elected to the National Academy of Science.
In addition to his list of accomplishments, he previously served as associate editor for the academic journal, Advanced Synthesis & Catalysis. His notable work has been heavily cited by his peers, and his research discoveries have been monumental to the advancement of organic chemistry. Moreover, Buchwald co-authored more than 200 publications and owns more than 15 patents. Furthermore, his research is instrumental in the understanding of various carbon-carbon bond formations.
Outstanding Chemist: Read about Stephen Buchwald.
Stuart Schreiber, Ph.D. — Pioneering Biopharmaceuticals
Although he is perhaps best known in academia as a chemist at Harvard University, Stuart Schreiber is also a businessman. He founded biopharmaceutical companies such as Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Forma Therapeutics, Ariad Pharmaceuticals, Infinity Pharmaceuticals, H3 Biomedicine, and Jnana Therapeutics. Additionally, he is a Founding Member of The Broad Institute. His companies take his research beyond chemistry and develop new treatments for diseases like cystic fibrosis and cancer.
Of note, he earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and his Ph.D. from Harvard. His research focuses on understanding how small molecules can act as probes in grander biological function. Schreiber aims to utilize his background in chemistry to better understand the biology of disease. His hope is to more effectively treat illness. Furthermore, his discoveries are key in understanding chromatin as a key gene expression regulatory element.
Moreover, Schreiber is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received awards such as the Tetrahedron Prize for Creativity in Organic Chemistry, the Association of American Cancer Institutes, Distinguished Scientist Award, and the Wolf Prize in Chemistry, among many others.
Outstanding Chemist: Read about Stuart Schreiber.
Craig Hawker, Ph.D. — Engineering through Materials Chemistry
With more than 40 patents and co-authorship of more than 300 research papers, Craig Hawker is an outstanding chemist. His research group at UC Santa Barbara focuses on a range of research questions in the materials chemistry and molecular engineering landscape. Their discoveries include the development of new polymer synthesis strategies and the fabrication of nanostructure materials for applications in biomaterials and energy research.
He is also the editor of the Journal of Polymer Science Part A: Polymet Chemistry and serves on the advisory boards of Intezyne, Symyx Technologies, Microbar Systems, and Warwick Effect Polymers. Additionally, he is an adjunct professor at his alma mater in Queensland, Australia. Of note, Hawker earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Queensland and his Ph.D. from Cambridge.
Furthermore, Hawker won the Charles G. Overberger International Prize for Excellence in Polymer Research, the Belgian Polymer Award, the Aldrich Lecturer, and the IBM Research Division Award, among many others. He is also an elected member of the National Academy of Inventors. Hawker also currently directs the California Nanosystems Institute and Dow Materials Institute, and he is Facility Director of the Materials Research Lab at UC Santa Barbara.
Outstanding Chemist: Read about Craig Hawker.
James Tour, Ph.D. — Researching Nanotechnology
Notable for his research in nanotechnology, James Tour is a synthetic organic chemist. He received his bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University and his Ph.D. from Purdue University. Of note, Tour published more than 600 research papers along and holds more than 150 patents. Additionally, he is the Founder of NanoJtech Consultants, LLC. His intellectual property is key to several other companies, including Weebit, Dotz, Tubs, Carbon IP Holdings, and many others.
Tour has done significant work to find ways to strategically stop chemical terrorist attacks. Moreover, he developed SciRave, a program for kids widely adopted in Texas to help complement school science instruction. His research aims to find medical advances and environmentally friendly solutions via nanotechnology. He hopes to determine the best ways to recover oil, purify water, and store hydrogen.
For his work, he was named one of the “World’s Most Influential Minds” by Reuters, “Scientist of the Year”, and one of the “50 Most Influential Scientists of the Year.” Tour also received the Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology, the NASA Space Act Award, and the Honda Innovation Award for Nanocars.
Outstanding Chemist: Read about James Tour.