Celebrating Our Exceptional Faculty 2023

4 College Faculty Receive 2023 U Awards

Each year, the University of Utah recognizes the achievements of exceptional faculty members in teaching, research, mentorship and service. Below are the College of Science honorees for this year, with excerpts from their nomination letters.



Calvin S. and JeNeal N. Hatch Prize in Teaching

Kenneth Golden
Distinguished Professor of Mathematics

“Having more than 40 years of classroom experience to perfect the art of teaching, 80-plus publications in academic and scientific journals, more than 500 invited lectures and having presented three times in front of the United States Congress, Dr. Golden has amplified what it means to be a teacher by not only being at the top of his field but also by creating a safe and inclusive environment where students can be challenged to reach their full potential.”



Distinguished Professor

Michael Morse, professor
Department of Chemistry

“Professor Morse’s substantial work exemplifies the highest goals of scholarship and research and he is internationally viewed as a leading expert in the experimental study of small transition metal, lanthanide and actinide molecules. His most recent work is setting the standard for these species and is crucially needed for benchmarking computational chemistry. At the same time, he is dedicated to teaching, mentoring and providing service to the profession and the local community at the highest level.”



Early Career Teaching Award

Claudia De Grandi, associate professor (lecturer)
Department of Physics & Astronomy

“Dr. De Grandi is an outstanding educator because of her persistent aspiration to evolve her teaching practice. I know from experience that she gives students many opportunities throughout the semester to provide feedback regarding the class. Furthermore, I know that she uses this information to shape how she proceeds in the classroom. Her commitment to enhancing her classrooms is one of the many ways that she is able to accommodate a wide range of student needs. As a future educator myself, I admire her devotion to education and her perspective on education as a constantly developing process. Dr. De Grandi’s willingness to adapt is something that all educators could benefit from.”




Early Career Teaching Award

Sean Howe, assistant professor
Department of Mathematics

“During my undergraduate career, Dr. Howe has been instrumental in my success by advising my applications for scholarships, graduate schools and research experiences; and by providing individual instruction on an advanced research project and related topics. I am extremely fortunate and grateful for Dr. Howe’s constant support and the positive impact he has had on my life and academic career. The personal impact of his guidance truly cannot be understated—he has proven to be an outstanding mentor in every manner possible, exhibiting extraordinary character and compassion for his students.”



Celebrate all faculty awards given this year by the University of Utah here:


2023 College of Science Awards


2023 College of Science AWARDS


The College of Science is committed to recognizing excellence in education, research, and service. Congratulations to all our 2023 College of Science award recipients!


Student Recognition

Research Scholar:
Alison Wang, BS Chemistry

Research Scholar:
Yexalen Barrera-Casas, BS Chemistry

Outstanding Graduate Student:
Dylan Klure, PhD Biology

Faculty Recognition

Excellence in Research: Gabriel Bowen, Department of Geology and Geophysics

Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring: Sophie Caron, Associate Professor of Biology

Distinguished Educator:
Kevin Davenport, Physics and Astronomy

Distinguished Service:
Selvi Kara, Postdoctoral Scholar, Mathematics

Postdoc Recognition

CoS Outstanding Postdoctoral Researcher:
Effie Symeonidi, Biology

Staff Recognition

CoS Staff Excellence Award:
Karen Zundel, Biology

Excellence in Safety:
Maria Garcia, Atmospheric Sciences

College of Mines and Earth Sciences Awards

Outstanding Research Faculty:
Pratt Rogers, Mining Engineering

Outstanding Teaching Assistant:
John Otero, Materials Science Engineering

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Spirit of Salam

Spirit of Salam

Tino Nyawelo

Tino Nyawelo Wins 2023 Spirit of Salam Award.

The family of International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) founder and Nobel Laureate Abdus Salam announced that Tino Nyawelo, associate professor of physics at the University of Utah, is a recipient of the 2023 Spirit of Salam Award. Revealed annually on Abdus Salam’s birthday, the award recognizes those who, like Salam himself, have worked tirelessly to promote the development of science and technology in disadvantaged parts of the world.

Nyawelo was recognized for founding Refugees Exploring the Foundations of Undergraduate Education in Science (REFUGES), a program to help historically excluded students to pursue STEM education at the university level. Nyawelo, who in 1997 left his home country of Sudan to complete a postgraduate program at the ICTP in Italy, considers the award a full circle moment.

“This award is very special to me because my time at the center put me directly on the path that I’m following today,” Nyawelo said.

Abdus Salem

Salam, a theoretical physicist from Punjab, Pakistan, received a bachelor’s and doctorate degree from the University of Cambridge due to Pakistan’s lack of scientific infrastructure at the time. Salam was a passionate advocate for boosting science in developing countries and lived by his conviction that science is the common heritage of humankind. In 1964, he founded the ICTP in Trieste, Italy, as an “international scientific hub of excellence linking scientists from developing countries with their colleagues worldwide, overcoming intellectual isolation and helping build a strong scientific base around the world so that all countries can play their rightful role in the global science community and in the family of nations,” according to the ICTP. He won the 1979 Nobel Prize in physics, becoming the first Pakistani and the first Muslim from an Islamic country to receive the prestigious prize in science.

In 1996, Nyawelo was unsure of his next move. He had completed a bachelor’s degree in physics from the Sudan University of Science and Technology in Khartoum, Sudan and was appointed as a teaching assistant. At the time, there were no Sudanese physics PhD programs, and he was considering switching to computer science. Luckily, Marten Durieux, a renowned Dutch physicist from the University of Leiden, Netherlands, intervened. Durieux, who passed away in 2011, traveled to Sudan every year to teach physics courses. His first-ever PhD student was a brilliant scholar from Sudan, and Durieux fell in love with the country. Over his career, Durieux mentored 11 Sudanese students through their PhDs. Nyawelo was admitted to a year-long intensive program at the ICTP.

Marten Durieux

“The ICTP diploma program was eye-opening, but difficult,” said Nyawelo. “It was the first time I’d left my country, the first time I’d learned science in a language other than Arabic, I didn’t know anybody, and Italy was a culture shock.”

Through Durieux, Nyawelo met Jan-Willem van Holten, a theoretical physicist at the Dutch the National Institute for Nuclear Physics and High Energy Physics (NIKHEF), with whom Nyawelo continues to collaborate to this day. After he completed his PhD in 2004, he returned to the ICTP for his postdoc. During his time in Europe, Nyawelo traveled frequently to Utah to visit his girlfriend, now wife. They started dating in Sudan, but she and her family were relocated to Salt Lake City after fleeing violence at the outbreak of the Sudanese civil war. Many of Nyawelo’s friends and classmates had also relocated—and the community felt like coming home.

“Durieux—that’s the connection that helped me, and motivated me to help others. I benefited a lot from support to pursue physics without paying a cent,” Nyawelo said. “I was planning on giving something back.”

While in Utah, colleagues in the Department of Physics & Astronomy gave Nyawelo a desk to continue his research, eventually offering him a post-doc position in 2007. By 2009, he and other members of the refugee community became alarmed at the high rates of school dropouts. They realized that many refugee youth come to Utah with little English and intermittent formal schooling. When they arrive in Utah, the school system places them in a grade based on their age, leaving many feeling overwhelmed and left behind. Nyawelo and partners founded REFUGES, an after-school program to help refugee students in middle and high school thrive in STEM subjects. The U has housed REFUGES since 2013 where it has expanded to include a summer bridge program for incoming first-year students at the U, and non-refugee students who are underrepresented in STEM fields.

Nyawelo in the classroom.

“I related to the Utah newcomers. It reminded me of when I went to Italy for the first time, science was taught in different language in a very different system,” said Nyawelo. “That’s how the whole afterschool program started. Because I remember the feeling of being that vulnerable.”

In 2020, the National Science Foundation awarded Nyawelo and collaborators $1.1 million over three years to study how refugee teenagers construct self-identities related to STEM across settings, such as physics research and creating digital stories, across relationships, such as peer, parent, and teacher, and across the languages they speak. Embedded in REFUGES, the first-of-its-kind project is titled “Investigating the development of STEM-positive identities of refugee teens in a physics out-of-school time experience.”

A cohort of teens learned the principles of physics and computer programming by building detectors for cosmic rays. The detector technology is adapted from HiSPARC (High School Project on Astrophysics Research with Cosmics), a program founded by Nyawelo’s former advisor, van Holton. van Holton and his students have flown to Utah several times to help Nyawelo adapt the program.

“I still have a big connection with the Netherlands— van Holten and his colleques at Nikhef has donated a lot of the equipment for free, to work and build cosmic ray detectors with high schools student here in Utah, and they handed me the project that they started more than 20 years ago,” said Nyawelo. “It’s been an exciting project that can serve as a model for other places who want to support students from these backgrounds succeed in STEM in higher education. Just like I was at ICTP and the Netherlands.”

Other Awardees
The two other Spirit of Salam awardees Hugo Celso Perez Rojas of the Instituto de Cybernetics Mathematics and Physics in Cuba, who has worked intensely to persuade Cuban policy makers that basic science is by no means a luxury but a crucial need for the development of third-world economies; and Federico Rosei, Institut National Recherche Scientifique in Montréal, Canada, has shown outstanding international leadership, spanning from research, to education to building capacity and mentoring.

“We are delighted to recognize the contribution of these three fine humanitarians, who have taken the spirit and example of Abdus Salam to serve humanity and promote education to the most deserving in the developing countries. They have worked tirelessly to support those, who purely by the accident of their birth do not have access to those born in the developed countries.”

by Lisa Potter, first published @ theU


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Clarivate’s Most Cited

Peter Stang

Distinguished Professor Peter J. Stang.

Peter Stang & President Obama.

Seated in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China.

Chinese International Science & Technology Cooperation Award.

Peter Stang One of Clarivate's Most Cited Scientists.

Each year, Clarivate identifies the world’s most influential researchers ─ the select few who have been most frequently cited by their peers over the last decade. In 2022, fewer than 7,000, or about 0.1%, of the world's researchers, in 21 research fields and across multiple fields, have earned this exclusive distinction.

Peter Stang is among this elite group recognized for his exceptional research influence, demonstrated by the production of multiple highly-cited papers that rank in the top 1% by citations for field and year in the Web of Science.

Peter Stang was born in Nuremberg, Germany to a German mother and Hungarian father. He lived in Hungary for most of his adolescence. In school, he took rigorous mathematics and science courses. At home, he made black gunpowder from ingredients at the drugstore, and developed a pH indicator from the juice of red cabbage that his mother cooked, and sold to his "fellow chemists".

In 1956, when Stang was in the middle of his sophomore year in high school, he and his family fled the Soviet invasion of Hungary and immigrated to Chicago, Illinois. Not speaking English, Stang failed his American history and English courses but scored at the top of his class in science and math. His teachers were confused by his performance and gave him an IQ test. Stang was confused by the unfamiliar format of the test and scored a 78. In spite of this, Stang was admitted to DePaul University and earned his undergraduate degree in 1963. He received his Ph.D. in 1966 from the University of California, Berkeley.

After a postdoctoral fellowship at Princeton Universitywith Paul Schleyer, he joined the chemistry faculty at the University of Utah in 1969. He became dean of the College of Science in 1997 and stepped down as dean in 2007. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, The American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a foreign member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He was editor-in-chief of the Journal of Organic Chemistry from 2000 to 2001, and Editor-in-Chief of the ACS flagship journal, Journal of the American Chemical Society (2002-2020).

Awards & Honors

  • Priestley Medal, (2013)
  • National Medal of Science, (2010)
  • Paul G. Gassman Distinguished Service Award of the ACS Division of Organic Chemistry, (2010)
  • F.A. Cotton Medal for Excellence in Chemical Research of the American Chemical Society (2010)
  • Honorary Professor CAS Institute of Chemistry, Beijing, Zheijiang U; East China Normal U and East China U of Science and Technology, (2010)
  • Fred Basolo Medal for Outstanding Research in Inorganic Chemistry, (2009)
  • Foreign Member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, (2007)
  • ACS Award for Creative Research and Applications of Iodine Chemistry, (2007)
  • Linus Pauling Award, (2006)
  • Foreign Member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (2006)
  • Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2002)
  • Member of the National Academy of Sciences.
  • ACS George A. Olah Award in Hydrocarbon or Petroleum Chemistry, (2003)
  • Member, AAAS Board of Directors, (2003–2007)
  • Robert W. Parry Teaching Award, (2000)
  • ACS James Flack Norris Award in Physical Organic Chemistry, (1998)
  • University of Utah Rosemblatt Prize for Excellence, (1995)
  • Utah Award in Chemistry, American Chemical Society, (1994)
  • Utah Governor's Medal for Science and Technology, (1993)
  • Honorary Doctorate of Science (D. Sc. honoris causa) Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia (1992)
  • Fulbright Senior Scholar, (1987–1988)
  • Univ. of Utah Distinguished Research Award, (1987)
  • Fellow AAAS, JSPS Fellow (1985, 1998)
  • Lady Davis Fellowship (Visiting Professor), Technion, Israel, (1986, 1997)
  • Humboldt "Senior U.S. Scientist" Award, (1977, 1996, 2010)
  • Associate Editor, Journal of the American Chemical Society (1982–1999)
  • National Organic Symposium Executive Officer (1985)


first published @ chem.utah.edu

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APS Fellows

APS Fellows

Physics Professors Named APS Fellows

Two professors in the U’s Department of Physics & Astronomy—Christoph Boehme, Professor and Chair of the department, and Ramón Barthelemy, Assistant Professor, have been elected fellows of the American Physical Society (APS). The APS Fellowship Program was created to recognize members who may have made advances in physics through original research and publication, or made significant innovative contributions in the application of physics to science and technology. They may also have made significant contributions to the teaching of physics or service and participation in the activities of the society.

Election to the APS is considered one of the most prestigious and exclusive honors for a physicist—the number of recommended nominees in each year may not exceed one-half percent of the current membership of the Society. APS is a nonprofit membership organization working to advance the knowledge of physics through its outstanding research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy, and international activities. The APS represents more than 50,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories, and industry in the United States and throughout the world.

Christoph Boehme

Christoph Boehme

“I am profoundly honored by my selection as an APS Fellow. Receiving this recognition is an excellent opportunity to look back at my research career, starting with my first experiments as an undergraduate researcher more than 25 years ago. When I think about all the discoveries and inventions I have had the chance to contribute to, I realize that none of them would have happened without the collaboration, support, and collegiality of many others. These include my former research advisors, all the students and postdocs who have worked in my research labs, my colleagues at the University of Utah (both staff and faculty), and other institutions. I am very much indebted to all these wonderful people.”

Boehme was born and raised in Oppenau, a small town in southwest Germany, 20 miles east of the French city of Strasbourg. After obtaining an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering, and committing to 15 months of civil services caring for disabled people (chosen to avoid the military draft), he moved to Heidelberg, Germany in 1994 to study physics at Heidelberg University.

In 1997 Boehme won a German-American Fulbright Student Scholarship, which brought him to the United States for the first time, where he studied at North Carolina State University and met his spouse. In 2000 they moved to Berlin, Germany, where they lived for five years while he worked for the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin, a national laboratory. He finished his dissertation work as a graduate student of the University of Marburg in 2002 and spent an additional three years working as a postdoctoral researcher.

Boehme moved to Utah in 2006 to join the Department of Physics & Astronomy as an Assistant Professor. He was promoted to Associate Professor and awarded tenure in 2010; three years later, he became a professor. During his tenure at the U, Boehme received recognition through a CAREER Award of the National Science Foundation in 2010, the Silver Medal for Physics and Materials Science from the International EPR Society in 2016, as well as the U’s Distinguished Scholarly and Creative Research Award in 2018 for his contributions and scientific breakthroughs in electron spin physics and for his leadership in the field of spintronics.

He was appointed Chair of the department in July, 2020 after serving as interim chair. Previously, Boehme served as associate chair of the department from 2010-2015. His research is focused on the exploration of spin-dependent electronic processes in condensed matter. The goal of the Boehme Group is to develop sensitive coherent spin motion detection schemes for small spin ensembles that are needed for quantum computing and general materials research.

Ramón Barthelemy

Ramón Barthelemy

“When I started graduate school you couldn’t even ask the LGBT question in physics without ending your career,” said Barthelemy. “Although homophobia and transphobia are still rampant in physics, a few of us are lucky enough to ask the question and still continue in the field. It is amazing to get this recognition for my work considering the history of queer people in physics, from Alan Turing‘s death to the ending of Frank Kameny‘s astronomy career, and the inability of people like Sally Ride and Nikola Tesla to be public with all of their relationships. I am both humbled and full of gratitude to pursue funded work giving voice to queer people in physics and, importantly, changing policy.”

Barthelemy is an early-career physicist with a record of groundbreaking scholarship and advocacy that has advanced the field of physics education research as it pertains to gender issues and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT)+ physicists.

The field of physics struggles to support students and faculty from historically excluded groups. Barthelemy has long worked to make the field more inclusive—he has served on the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) Committee on Women in Physics and on the Committee on Diversity—and was an early advocate for LGBT+ voices in the AAPT. He co-authored LGBT Climate in Physics: Building an Inclusive Community, an influential report for the American Physical Society, and the first edition of the LGBT+ Inclusivity in Physics and Astronomy Best Practices Guide, which offers actionable strategies for physicists to improve their departments and workplaces for LGBT+ colleagues and students. He also recently published the first peer reviewed quantitative study on LGBT+ physicists which received national attention.

In 2019, Barthelemy joined the U’s College of Science as its first tenure-track faculty member focusing on physics education research (PER), a field that studies how people learn physics and culture of the community. Since arriving, he has built a program that gives students rigorous training in physics concepts and in education research, qualities that prepare students for jobs in academia, education policy, or general science policy. He founded the Physics Education Research Group at the University of Utah (PERU), where he and a team of postdoctoral scholars and graduate and undergraduate students explore how graduate program policies impact students’ experiences; conduct long-term studies of the experience of women in physics and astronomy and of Students of Color in STEM programs; and seek to understand the professional network development and navigation of women and LGBT+ PhD physicists.

In discussing Barthelemy’s election as a fellow to the APS, two of his mentors, Geraldine L. Cochran and Tim Atherton, commented on his work: “Barthelemy has provided an excellent example for how research on the educational experiences of people from marginalized groups can center the voices of the research participants,” said Cochran, Associate Professor at Rutgers University. “Indeed, Dr. Barthelemy was among the first—if not the first—in physics education research to use Feminist Standpoint Theory in his research.”

“Fellowship is one of the highest honors that that American Physical Society can bestow and is normally reserved for scientists much further along in their careers,” said Atherton, Associate Professor of Physics at Tufts University. “Ramón’s election is a signature of the incredible esteem in which his fellow physicists hold him and points to the significance of his work. This kind of work is necessary to transform the culture of physics to fully include LGBTQ+ people. As one of these people myself, and as someone who has not always been included by the academic community, I’m thrilled that Ramón has been given this incredible honor.”

Barthelemy earned his Bachelor of Science degree in astrophysics at Michigan State University and received his Master of Science and doctorate degrees in PER at Western Michigan University. “Originally, I went to graduate school for nuclear physics, but I discovered I was more interested in diversity, equity, and inclusion in physics and astronomy. Unfortunately, there were very few women, People of Color, LGBT or first-generation physicists in my program,” said Barthelemy, who looked outside of physics to understand why.

Other awards:
In 2022, Earlier he received the 2022 WEPAN (Women in Engineering ProActive Network) Betty Vetter Research Award for notable achievement in research related to women in engineering.

In 2021, Barthelemy received the Doc Brown Futures Award, an honor that recognizes early career members who demonstrate excellence in their contributions to physics education and exhibit excellent leadership.

He received the 2020 Fulbright Finland award but wasn’t able to travel to Finland to give his lectures until 2022.

In 2020, he and his U colleagues Jordan Gerton and Pearl Sandick were awarded $200,000 from the National Science Foundation to complete a case study exploring the graduate program changes in the U’s Department of Physics & Astronomy. In the same year, Barthelemy received a $350,000 Building Capacity in Science Education Research award to continue his longitudinal study on women in physics and astronomy and created a new study on People of Color in U.S. graduate STEM programs. Later, he received a $120,000 supplement to continue the work.

He also co-received a $500,000 grant with external colleagues Dr. Charles Henderson and Dr. Adrienne Traxler to study the professional network development and career pathways of women and LGBT+ PhD physicists in academia, the government, and private sectors. Lastly, Barthelemy was selected to conduct a literature review on LGBT+ scientists as a virtual visiting scholar by the ARC Network, an organization dedicated to improving STEM equity in academia.

In 2014, Barthelemy completed a Fulbright Fellowship at the University of Jyväskylä, in Finland where he conducted research looking at student motivations to study physics in Finland. In 2015, he received a fellowship from the American Association for the Advancement of Science Policy in the United States Department of Education and worked on science education initiatives in the Obama administration. After acting as a consultant for university administrations and research offices, he began to miss doing his own research and was offered a job as an assistant professor at the University of Utah.

first published @ physics.utah.edu


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McMinn Chair

Trevor James McMinn Chair

Christopher Hacon

Christopher Hacon appointed to McMinn Chair in Mathematics

On July 1, 2022, University of Utah President Taylor Randall appointed Distinguished Professor Christopher Hacon as the Trevor James McMinn Professor in the Department of Mathematics. Hacon held the inaugural McMinn Chair for five years—that term ended last June.

According to the terms of the appointment, this is a five-year appointment. Only one faculty member in the department may hold the appointment of the McMinn Chair at a time—in exceptional cases, the current Professorship holder may be considered for reappointment after a review has been conducted pursuant to the university’s policies and procedures for professorship holders.

Davar Khoshnevisan Chair of the Dept of Mathematics

“Distinguished Professor Hacon's work has been groundbreaking, and he is recognized internationally as a mathematical scientist of the highest caliber, whose work has motivated and impacted the next generation of brilliant algebraic geometers.”


Born in England and raised in Italy, Hacon arrived at the U as a postdoctoral scholar in 1998 and came back as a professor in 2002. He is particularly interested in objects that exist in more than three dimensions. He and his colleagues have applied studies of these objects to extend the “minimal model program”—a foundational principle of algebraic geometry—into higher dimensions. The American Mathematical Society has lauded their work as “a watershed in algebraic geometry.”

He has been honored with prestigious awards such as his 2019 Election to The Royal Society of London, the 2018 Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics, the 2016 EH Moore Research Article Prize, the 2015 Distinguished Scholarly and Creative Research Award from the University of Utah, the 2011 Antonio Feltrinelli Prize in Mathematics Mechanics and Applications, the 2009 Frank Nelson Cole Prize in Algebra and the 2007 Clay Research Award. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a fellow of the American Mathematical Society, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.


first published @ math.utah.edu

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Aria Ballance


National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship.

Aria Ballance is a third-year graduate student who was selected for the 2022 National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship. Sponsored by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Army Reserve Office, and the Office of Naval Research, it is a highly competitive fellowship with over 3,000 applicants and only 50 awardees.

Aria’s research is focused on evaluating crescent shaped nanostructures as a tunable platform for vibrational circular dichroism (VCD). The proposal she wrote for NDSEG involved using the nanocrescents she fabricates to optimize the detection of chiral molecules. “Ultimately, the chiral detection will be used to identify the presence of life outside of our solar system.”

In fact, Aria credits Star Trek with her love of science and her decision to become a chemist. She credits her PI Dr. Jennifer Shumaker-Parry with supporting and guiding her through her graduate career. When not in the lab she loves to backpack, she paints in watercolors, she loves rock climbing, goes white water kayaking, and enjoys skiing and swing dancing.


first published @ chem.utah.edu


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Armentrout Interview

Peter B. Armentrout

Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry

An Appreciation for, and an Interview with, Professor Peter B. Armentrout.

Peter B. Armentrout the Henry Eyring Presidential Endowed Chair of Chemistry at the University of Utah is the 2021 recipient of the John B. Fenn Award for Distinguished Contribution in Mass Spectrometry.

List of contributions from the following research groups: Ryan Julian, Scott McLuckey, Kit Bowen, R. Graham Cooks, Dave Clemmer, Air Force Research Laboratory, Mathias Schaefer, Joost Bakker, Diethard Bohme, Peter Armentrout, Konrad Koszinowski, Jana Roithová, Mary Rodgers, and Richard O’Hair.

It is a pleasure to introduce a special focus of the Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry to celebrate the accomplishments of Prof. Peter B. Armentrout, Henry Eyring Presidential Endowed Chair of Chemistry, University of Utah, on the occasion of his receiving the 2021 ASMS John B. Fenn Award for a Distinguished Contribution in Mass Spectrometry. The award recognizes Peter’s development of (1) robust experimental and statistical techniques for the determination of accurate thermochemistry via the guided ion beam method, which has provided insights into the thermochemistry, kinetics, and dynamics of simple and complex chemical reactions, and (2) a suite of software programs for statistically modeling the energy dependence of product formation. As a consequence of these developments, nearly 2500 distinct bond energies have been measured during his career. These fundamental measurements have impact in many fields, including catalysis, biochemistry, surface chemistry, organometallic chemistry, and plasma chemistry.

This issue contains a total of 14 papers around the theme of “Thermodynamics, Kinetics and Mechanisms in Gas-Phase Ion Chemistry”. We thank all of the authors and reviewers for helping this issue come to fruition.

Although Peter’s achievements have been documented in other editorials (1−4) and he has written a short autobiography, (5) here we asked Peter some questions on issues that have intrigued us (note: this interview is a COVID19 “timecapsule” as it was carried out in mid-2021 during the height of lockdowns and travel bans):

Question 1: Many of us were inspired to pursue science by our high school teachers. In your autobiography, (5) you mentioned that you had excellent chemistry and physics teachers at Oakwood High School, Dayton, OH. Did they help ignite a spark, or were you already doing experiments at home before then?

PBA answer: You know I was never one to really do experiments at home. I had a home chemistry set (with lots of dangerous chemicals that people would be horrified to give to kids these days), but I mainly mixed them up to generate goo and never followed the recipes given. However, I was always interested in how things worked and knew I would be a scientist shortly after I gave up the prospect of being a professional pony express rider (in the fifth grade or so).

Question 2: I enjoyed reading about your early research with the late Rob Dunbar (Case Western Reserve University) and with Jack Beauchamp (Caltech). (5) Since then, you have had a wonderfully productive career. What is your favorite piece of work that you have been involved in?

PBA answer: It is not often you get a call out of nowhere asking if you can do an experiment, but Al Viggiano did just that several years back. Turns out the Metal Oxide Space Cloud (MOSC) group at the Air Force Research Laboratory was interested in samarium chemistry. They needed to know the bond energy of SmO+ with more precision and accuracy than was available in the literature. I told him we would try to measure this if they bought us the samarium sample, which turned out to cost $200. Apparently, Al went to the MOSC group and said I would do the research but it would cost 200. They hesitated until they learned he did not mean $200K. We successfully measured the SmO+ bond energy, (6) which enabled them to understand an ongoing atmospheric test. Subsequently, this has led to grants that enable us to continue studying the oxidation of lanthanides, including revisiting the Sm system. I’m not sure that many scientists would have thought that understanding simple gas-phase diatomic molecules better is still an important avenue for research.

Armentrout in the lab.

Question 3: What is the role of a mentor in science? Who mentored you and what has been your style of mentoring?

PBA answer: The enterprise of chemistry is a complex and detailed world, with lots of places where you can go astray. The role of a mentor is to alert a student of chemistry about some of the realities of getting things done and provide guidance. My mentors were Jack Beauchamp, Rob Dunbar, and John Fackler (inorganic chemist at Case and then Texas A&M). Like them, I tell my students that they work with me, not for me. I’m largely a hands-off mentor who provides advice and direction but willingly become hands-on when the situation needs it. I try to make sure my students not only learn to take good data and analyze it but also to present it clearly in both written and oral venues. My door (these days, my email box) is always open.

Question 4: What are the challenges for young scientists?

PBA answer: There are so many. I’m not sure the challenges have changed over the years, but I do think they have intensified. Funding, life–work balance, just dealing with students and people, they all need work to make happen. One could imagine that finding a new scientific niche that you can be the expert in has become harder because all the “easy” targets have already been taken. This belief neglects the fact that new techniques and new technologies provide new opportunities, but that does not make them any easier to identify. When I started out, I realized that if only I could understand and control things better, then I really ought to be able to measure thresholds of reactions and learn not only some thermochemistry but also something about the dynamics and mechanisms of reactions. I identified radio frequency (rf) manipulations as a means to improve the technology considerably and that led to the very first guided ion beam tandem mass spectrometer that my group built at UC Berkeley. In subsequent years, we have also thought hard about how to interpret the kinetic energy dependence of reactions that has enabled us to make a lot of progress along those lines over the years, but there is a lot we still do not know or understand as well as we might.

Question 5: What is the future of peer-review publishing? How are you personally coping with the ever-increasing number of scientific articles?

PBA answer: Honestly, I’m not sure I am successfully coping at all. The only saving grace is that you can almost instantaneously search the literature for relevant articles through the Internet. I still remember having to go to the library and search Chemical Abstracts in order to search the literature. An Internet search does not always find every relevant article, but it always finds more than you really want.

Question 6: 2020 was a rather strange and challenging year. This is reflected in the fact that the Oxford English Dictionary was not able to decide on a single “word of the year”. What is your “word of the year” to describe 2020 and why?

PBA answer: Interesting question. My short answer also involves multiple words: pandemic, virtual, remote. If I had to pick one, it would be remote. The last year has kept us apart in ways we never conceived of and yet brought us together (often using technology) in ways that have expanded the way we will go forward. It is been an interesting process but one that will hopefully provide benefits in the future.

Question 7: Mary Rodgers’ recounting anticipating brutal questions from the holy trinity of gas-phase ion chemists (Jack Beauchamp, Mike Bowers, and Peter Armentrout) at the 1993 Lake Arrowhead Conference resonated with me. (2) I too was warned that you guys had exquisite “BS” detectors. Thus, it was with trepidation that when John Bowie fell ill I presented his talk at the eighth Asilomar Conference on Mass Spectrometry in 1990. (7) That was the first time that I met you, Jack, and Mike and other leading gas-phase ion chemists. I learned a lot but was also impressed by the spirit of the questions, which were aimed at getting the most out of the science. I also felt that this community was welcoming and that there was a sense of fun. Given that COVID19 has curtailed travel and many conferences have been canceled or rescheduled, what are your thoughts about the future of conferences? Are face-to-face conferences still important?

PBA answer: The triumvirate did indeed have a well-deserved reputation, but you are spot on with regard to the intent of those questions. I’ve been to a few virtual conferences in the past year. They accomplish a fair bit of what is needed to communicate science to your peers. They reduce our carbon footprint and can enable many more people to attend than might otherwise be able to afford it. However, the personal interactions, the bump-into-you-in-the-hall moments, the scribbles on a napkin, are missing from virtual conferences. The ability to share a drink and dine with friends and speculate together provides real opportunities to advance science. The time away from your routine at home can be mind expanding. Face-to-face conferences remain relevant and needed.

Question 8: If you had a time machine, which scientist(s) from history would you like to meet? What would you ask them?

PBA answer: Leonardo da Vinci. I’ve always thought he was the epitome of the Renaissance man, doing both art and science that was well ahead of its time. In that regard, I think most people do not appreciate how much art and inspiration there is in doing good science. I would ask him where he derived his inspiration and why he ever thought man could fly.

Question 9: Much of your work focuses on thermodynamics, with the 2013 tribute (4) mentioning over 2000 distinct bond energies measured. What is the motivation for your intense interest, perhaps even obsession, with this aspect of chemistry?

PBA answer: I have always valued the quantitative aspects of chemistry. I can recall early in my graduate career an interaction with the late Ben Freiser, then also a graduate student with Jack Beauchamp, where he took one of the pieces of thermochemistry I had recently measured and proceeded to break it down a number of different ways. Thermodynamics has an eternal quality to it: a good measurement will be valuable to many future generations. Thermodynamics is predictive; it can definitively tell you whether a reaction is possible or not. A recent example is a study that generated a fair bit of interest because it claimed to observe catalytic conversion of methane to ethene on gold dimer cations at temperatures as low as 200 K. The problem is that this reaction is endothermic by over 200 kJ/mol, which means it is impossible to catalyze at thermal energies. Collaborators and I investigated a number of alternative explanations for the observations. (8)


First published at ASMS.org


This article references 8 other publications.

  1. 1

    Bierbaum, V. M. Focus on ion thermochemistry in honor of Peter B. Armentrout, recipient of the 2001 Biemann MedalJ. Am. Soc. Mass Spectrom. 200213 (5), 417– 418 DOI: 10.1016/S1044-0305(02)00377-X

  2. 2

    Rodgers, M. T.Clemmer, D. E. An appreciationInt. J. Mass Spectrom. 2012330–3322– 3 DOI: 10.1016/j.ijms.2012.11.003

  3. 3

    Rodgers, M. T.Clemmer, D. E. A Celebration of the Scientific and Personal Contributions of Peter BArmentrout, Int. J. Mass Spectrom. 2012330–3324– 5 DOI: 10.1016/j.ijms.2012.11.004

  4. 4

    Ervin, K. M.Rodgers, M. T. 2140 Bond Energies and Counting: A Tribute to Peter B. ArmentroutJ. Phys. Chem. A 2013117 (6), 967– 969 DOI: 10.1021/jp401080r

  5. 5

    Armentrout, P. B. The Ties That Bind: An Autobiographical Sketch of Peter B. ArmentroutJ. Phys. Chem. A 2013117 (6), 970– 973 DOI: 10.1021/jp400039t

  6. 6

    Cox, R. M.Kim, J.Armentrout, P. B.Bartlett, J.VanGundy, R. A.Heaven, M. C.Ard, S. G.Melko, J. J.Shuman, N. S.Viggiano, A. A. Evaluation of the exothermicity of the chemi-ionization reaction Sm + O– → SmO+ + e–J. Chem. Phys. 2015142134307 DOI: 10.1063/1.4916396

  7. 7

    Bierbaum, V. M. 8th Asilomar Conference on Mass SpectrometryRapid Commun. Mass Spectrom. 19915144– 144 DOI: 10.1002/rcm.1290050313

  8. 8

    Shuman, N. S.Ard, S. G.Sweeny, B. C.Pan, H.Viggiano, A. A.Keyes, N. R.Guo, H.Owen, C. J.Armentrout, P. B. Au2+ cannot catalyze conversion of methane to ethene at low temperatureCatal. Sci. Technol. 201992767– 2780 DOI: 10.1039/C9CY00523D


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STAR-X Proposal

STAR-X Proposal

Daniel Wik

Astrophysicist Dan Wik proposal selected by NASA

NASA has selected four mission proposals submitted to the agency’s Explorers Program for further study. U astrophysicist Dan Wik is a member of the STAR-X Proposal Team, one of the two Astrophysics Medium Explorer missions selected by NASA for further study. The proposals include missions that would study exploding stars, distant clusters of galaxies, and nearby galaxies and stars.

Adapted from a news release by NASA

Two Astrophysics Medium Explorer missions and two Explorer Missions of Opportunity have been selected to conduct mission concept studies. After detailed evaluation of those studies, NASA plans to select one Mission of Opportunity and one Medium Explorer in 2024 to proceed with implementation. The selected missions will be targeted for launch in 2027 and 2028, respectively.

Daniel Wik, assistant professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Utah, is a member of the STAR-X Proposal Team, one of the two Astrophysics Medium Explorer missions selected by NASA for further study. For more information about Wik and the STAR-X team, visit: http://star-x.xraydeep.org/.

“The fact that STAR-X has passed this competitive milestone is a testament to the hard work and vision of both the hardware and science teams, and it has been enormous fun for me to contribute to this effort and collaborate with such a talented and convivial group of scientists. I hope this collaboration will continue for years,” said Wik.

Daniel Wik

Wik is an X-ray astronomer, who primarily works with observations conducted by the NuSTAR mission, along with data from other X-ray observatories, such as XMM-NewtonChandra, and the soon-to-launch XRISM, studying galaxies and galaxy clusters. Before joining the U in 2017, he was a research scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center outside of Washington, D.C.

“NASA’s Explorers Program has a proud tradition of supporting innovative approaches to exceptional science, and these selections hold that same promise,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “From studying the evolution of galaxies to explosive, high-energy events, these proposals are inspiring in their scope and creativity to explore the unknown in our universe.”

NASA Explorer missions conduct focused scientific investigations and develop instruments that fill scientific gaps between the agency’s larger space science missions. The proposals were competitively selected based on potential science value and feasibility of development plans.

The two Medium Explorer teams selected at this stage will each receive $3 million to conduct a nine-month mission concept study. Astrophysics Medium Explorer mission costs are capped at $300 million each, excluding the launch vehicle. The selected proposals are:

UltraViolet EXplorer (UVEX)

  • UVEX would conduct a deep survey of the whole sky in two bands of ultraviolet light, to provide new insights into galaxy evolution and the lifecycle of stars. The spacecraft would have the ability to repoint rapidly to capture ultraviolet light from the explosion that follows a burst of gravitational waves caused by merging neutron stars. UVEX would carry an ultraviolet spectrograph for detailed study of massive stars and stellar explosions.
  • Principal investigator: Fiona Harrison at Caltech in Pasadena, California

Survey and Time-domain Astrophysical Research Explorer (STAR-X)

  • The STAR-X spacecraft would be able to turn rapidly to point a sensitive wide-field X-ray telescope and an ultraviolet telescope at transient cosmic sources, such as supernova explosions and active galaxies. Deep X-ray surveys would map hot gas trapped in distant clusters of galaxies; combined with infrared observations from NASA’s upcoming Roman Space Telescope, these observations would trace how massive clusters of galaxies built up over cosmic history.
  • Principal investigator: William Zhang at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland

The two Mission of Opportunity teams selected at this stage will each receive $750,000 to conduct a nine-month implementation concept study. NASA Mission of Opportunity costs are capped at $80 million each. The selected proposals are:

Moon Burst Energetics All-sky Monitor (MoonBEAM)

  • In its orbit between Earth and the Moon, MoonBEAM would see almost the whole sky at any time, watching for bursts of gamma rays from distant cosmic explosions and rapidly alerting other telescopes to study the source. MoonBEAM would see gamma rays earlier or later than telescopes on Earth or in low orbit, and astronomers could use that time difference to pinpoint the gamma-ray source in the sky.
  • Principal investigator: Chiumun Michelle Hui at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama

A LargE Area burst Polarimeter (LEAP)

  • Mounted on the International Space Station, LEAP would study gamma-ray bursts from the energetic jets launched during the formation of a black hole after the explosive death of a massive star, or in the merger of compact objects. The high-energy gamma-ray radiation can be polarized, or vibrate in a particular direction, which can distinguish between competing theories for the nature of the jets.
  • Principal investigator: Mark McConnell at the University of New Hampshire in Durham

The Explorers Program is the oldest continuous NASA program. The program is designed to provide frequent, low-cost access to space using principal investigator-led space science investigations relevant to the Science Mission Directorate’s astrophysics and heliophysics programs.

Since the launch of Explorer 1 in 1958, which discovered the Earth’s radiation belts, the Explorers Program has launched more than 90 missions, including the Uhuru and Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) missions that led to Nobel prizes for their investigators.

The program is managed by NASA Goddard for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, which conducts a wide variety of research and scientific exploration programs for Earth studies, space weather, the solar system, and the universe.

For more information about the Explorers Program, visit: https://explorers.gsfc.nasa.gov.

first published @ physics.utah.edu


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Golden Goose 2022

Golden Goose Award

Baldomero "Toto" Olivera

A side hustle that transformed neuroscience.

As scientists working in the Philippines in the 1970s, biochemists Baldomero Olivera and Lourdes Cruz, professor emeritus of the University of the Philippines Diliman, found it tough to get hold of the right supplies for DNA research.

“We had to find something to do that didn’t require fancy equipment because we had none,” said Olivera, a distinguished professor at The University of Utah’s School of Biological Sciences, in a video produced for the Golden Goose awards.

Olivera and Cruz came up with what they hoped would be a fruitful side project. Cone snails are commonplace in the Philippines, and they had always fascinated Olivera, who had collected shells as a child. The pair decided to research the nature of the venom that the snails used to paralyze their tiny fish prey.

Cone Snail Shells

The team discovered the bioactive compounds in the venom were tiny proteins known as peptides. After moving to the US and teaming up with University of Utah grad students Dr. Michael McIntosh and the late Craig T. Clark, Olivera and Cruz learned that some of the venom peptides reacted differently in mice than in fish and frogs. It turned out in mammals the compounds were involved in the sensation of pain, rather than muscle paralysis.

“There was this incredible gold mine of compounds,” said McIntosh in the video. He is now a professor and director of research of psychiatry in the School of Biological Sciences at The University of Utah.

On September 14, 2022, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest multidisciplinary scientific society, hosted the 11th annual Golden Goose Award ceremony, a celebration of federally funded research that unexpectedly benefits society. AAAS awarded University of Utah research of a non-opioid pain reliever, hidden in the venom of tiny cone snails, which greatly decreases pain for patients with chronic illnesses while helping scientists develop new ways to map the body’s nervous system. As undergraduate researchers, Craig Clark (in memoriam) and J. Michael McIntosh, now a professor of psychiatry at the U, isolated a compound that eventually led to an approved non-opioid pain killer. Baldomero M. Olivera, Distinguished Professor in the School of Biological Sciences, and Lourdes J. Cruz, then faculty of biology at the U and now Professor Emeritus at the University of the Philippines, supervised the research. The award recognizes all four individuals.

The Golden Goose Award spotlights scientific research that may have appeared obscure, sounded funny, or for which the results were unforeseen at the outset but ultimately, and often serendipitously, led to breakthroughs. This year, the award comes on the heels of the U.S. Congress passing and President Biden signing the bipartisan and historic CHIPS and Science Act. This new law reauthorizes key federal agencies whose projects will propel discovery, build on our strengths, and show what American investment, intellect, ingenuity and risk-taking can accomplish — precisely the type of innovation the Golden Goose Award honors.

U.S. Representative Jim Cooper (D-TN), often referred to as “Father Goose,” will retire from Congress at the end of this term. He conceived of the award as a strong counterpoint to criticisms of basic research as wasteful federal spending, such as the late Sen. William Proxmire’s (D-WI) Golden Fleece Award, leading to a coalition of business, university, and scientific organizations establishing the award in 2012. Thanks to his legacy, the award will continue to elevate the importance of recognizing basic science that ultimately improves people’s quality of life.

“The Golden Goose Award reminds us that potential discoveries could be hidden in every corner and illustrates the benefits of investing in basic research to propel innovation,” said Sudip S. Parikh, chief executive officer at AAAS and executive publisher of the Science family of journals. “AAAS is honored to elevate this important work since the award’s inception, and we thank Representative Cooper for his tireless leadership and dedicated support to this award and the scientific community.”

Tiny snail, big impact
In the 1970s, Olivera and collaborator Cruz were interested in the deadly venom used by cone snails, marine creatures native to the Philippines. When Olivera moved to the U, his focus shifted to other areas, but he kept the cone snail venom as a side project. In 1979 he assigned two undergraduate researchers the task of isolating the venom’s components and testing their impacts on mice. Craig Clark, a sophomore biology major, and McIntosh, a 19-year-old who just graduated high school, discovered something unexpected—a compound they named “shaker peptide” blocked calcium channels in the mice, which are the nerve’s ability to communicate with the rest of the body. Later, they found that the shaker peptide specifically targeted the channels related to pain in mammals and is 1,000 times as powerful as morphine. McIntosh is now a professor of psychiatry at the U with his own lab and thirty years later, continues to work with Olivera to explore the therapeutic potential of cone snail venom that has one of the most promising non-opioid alternatives to manage pain. One compound become an FDA-approved painkiller.

2022 Golden Goose Awards Ceremony

The student project of Clark and McIntosh is part of a long tradition of undergraduate research in the U’s College of Science. Fifty years ago, K. Gordon Lark, the first chair of the Department of Biology at the U, started an initiative to support undergrad research opportunities in faculty laboratories, an initiative that led to recruiting biology undergraduates such as Clark and McIntosh. The College of Science is expanding his legacy under a newly created Science Research Initiative, which provides most U science undergraduates with a unique opportunity to pursue their own independent research projects.

2022 Golden Goose Awardees:

Craig T. Clark (in memoriam), Lourdes J. Cruz (University of the Philippines), J. Michael McIntosh (University of Utah; George E. Wahlen VA Medical Center), and Baldomero Marquez Olivera (University of Utah)
Tiny Snail, Big Impact: Cone Snail Venom Eases Pain and Injects New Energy into Neuroscience
Impeded by supply chain issues while conducting DNA research in the Philippines, Lourdes Cruz and Baldomero Olivera began examining cone snails, a group of highly venomous sea mollusks which happened to be in abundant supply along the country’s coastal waters. Several decades and countless airline miles later, and with the help of then-undergraduate students Craig Clark and Michael McIntosh, the team discovered the raw material for a non-opioid pain reliever and a powerful new tool for studying the central nervous system, all hidden in the cone snail’s potent venom

Ron Kurtz (RxSight), Tibor Juhasz (ViaLase), Detao Du (Rayz Technologies), Gerard Mourou (Ecole Polytechnique), and Donna Strickland (University of Waterloo)
How a Lab Incident Led to Better Eye Surgery for Millions of People
Nearly 30 years ago, a graduate student at the University of Michigan’s Center for Ultrafast Optical Science (CUOS) experienced an accidental laser injury to his eye. Fortunately, his vision was not severely affected. However, the observation of the very precise and perfectly circular damage produced by the laser led to a collaboration. Eight years later, that group of researchers developed of a bladeless approach to corrective eye surgery. The new procedure, also known as bladeless LASIK, uses a femtosecond laser rather than a precision scalpel cut into the human cornea before it is reshaped to improve the patient’s vision.

Manu Prakash (Stanford University) and Jim Cybulski (Foldscope Instruments Inc.)
Foldscopes and Frugal Science: Paper Microscopes Make Science Accessible
While researching in remote areas of India and Thailand, a technical challenge piqued Manu Prakash’s curiosity. In certain areas of the world, transport, training, and maintenance barriers can make state-of-the-art microscopes inaccessible. Prakash found a potential solution in a decidedly un-technical material: paper. Using principles of origami applied to printer paper, matchboxes, and file folders, Prakash and graduate student Jim Cybulski designed a paper microscope known as the Foldscope that can achieve powerful magnification with materials that cost less than $1 to manufacture. Today, just over a decade later, two million Foldscopes have been distributed in over 160 countries and have been used to diagnose infectious diseases, diagnose new species, and identify fake drugs, among many other applications.


first published @ CNN and @theU

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