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Chemistry Professors Honored with ACS Prizes

Nancy goroff 1
Iwao Ojima

Stony Brook University Chemistry Professors Iwao Ojima and Nancy Goroff have been selected to receive 2013 American Chemical Society (ACS) Awards for pioneering work in their respective specialties.

Distinguished Professor Ojima, also director of the Institute of Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery at Stony Brook, will be awarded the 2013 ACS Award for Creative Work in Fluorine Chemistry at the Spring American Chemical Society Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, April 7-11, 2013, and will also present the award address at the Biennial Winter Fluorine Conference in St. Pete Beach, Florida, January 13-18, 2013. The award consists of $5,000 and a certificate.

Associate Professor Goroff will receive the 2013 ACS Award for Creative Research and Applications of Iodine Chemistry at the Spring American Chemical Society Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, April 7-11, 2013, where she will present an award address. The award consists of $10,000 and a certificate.

“Stony Brook University is extremely proud to have two renowned chemistry professors receiving these prestigious awards,” said Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD. “Iwao Ojima and Nancy Goroff are truly deserving of this recognition from the world’s largest scientific society. Their contributions, leadership, quality of research, dedication and professionalism are valued assets and resources to the institution. On behalf of Stony Brook University, I congratulate them on this well-deserved honor.”

Iwao Ojima
Ojima will receive the ACS award “for his outstanding contributions to fluorine chemistry through his pioneering and creative research in synthetic methodology and biomedical applications.”

Ojima’s research, a combination of both transition metal catalysis and medicinal chemistry, has had a profound impact on the fluorine chemistry at the biomedical interface. This is his third ACS National Award in addition to the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award (organic chemistry) in 1994 and the E. B. Hershberg Award (medicinal chemistry) in 2001, illuminating the exceptional breadth and excellence in his research.

The element fluorine plays an important role in our everyday lives as a component of common substances such as toothpaste, Teflon, coolants, air conditioners, air sprays, extinguishers and pharmaceutical drugs. Today, enormous numbers of synthetic fluorine-containing compounds have been widely used in a variety of fields because the incorporation of fluorine atoms or fluorinated groups often furnishes quite unique properties to molecules, which cannot be attained by any other elements.

Ojima first introduced catalytic processes into organofluorine chemistry in the early 1980s and developed highly efficient methods for the practical synthesis of optically active fluoro-amino acids by means of catalysis and enzymatic resolution. His invention of a highly efficient process for the synthesis of 5-trifluoromethyluracil was commercialized for the production of trifluridine (antiviral drug). He developed successful fluorine-containing molecules for the treatment of high blood pressure and as painkillers. Most recently, he synthesized taxol derivatives containing fluorine as anticancer agents, probes of chemical and structural biology and to enhance drug potency. “These fluoro-taxoids have been incorporated as ‘warheads’ into tumor-targeting drug delivery systems for efficacious cancer chemotherapy,” according to Vice President for Research Benjamin Hsiao, former chair of chemistry at Stony Brook.

Nancy Goroff

Nancy Goroff
Goroff will receive the ACS award for her discovery of unique molecules based on the element iodine that undergo new and unexpected reactions and which can be used to make new materials for conducting energy.

Goroff’s accomplishments “illustrate that chemistry can still surprise us and that, if we are clever, we can exploit the surprises to enrich our knowledge and to produce new chemical science,” according to Kathlyn A. Parker, professor of chemistry at Stony Brook.

Goroff is an organic chemist who works with carbon-rich materials. Her research involves the creation of new polymers — particularly carbon-iodine compounds — that can be used as organic semiconductors, the organic equivalent to inorganic semiconductors such as silicon.

“Organic electronic materials are useful in that they can have the processing properties of polymers and the conducting properties of semiconductors,” Goroff explained, noting that organic semiconductors can be used for electronic devices such as electronic displays or LEDS. “They tend to be more easily dissolved in more solvents which mean they can then be put into a mold or thin film and we can shape them in ways that you can’t shape silicon or other inorganics. And because organic molecules are the molecules of life and nature, they’re a renewable resource. We’re not running out of carbon, so these materials can be less expensive and more easily modified than many inorganic materials.”

Because carbon-based polymers tend to burn, they would not replace silicon in computers, which generate heat, but they are suited for some electronic applications, she said. The carbon-iodine materials prepared in the Goroff lab push the boundaries of known polymer structure; studying their electronic and optical properties can help scientists understand the fundamental physics behind conductive organic polymers.

In addition to her research on carbon-based molecules, Goroff has had a major impact on the communication of science within the Department of Chemistry and in educating society on scientific issues. Her creative and energetic leadership has enhanced graduate education in the department, which was recently ranked in the top 30 by the National Research Council. Most recently, she brought her chemical expertise to the NBC Learn video series in which she discussed the chemistry behind the pigmentation of flowers and the reasons why leaves change color in autumn. Videos can be viewed here and here.

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