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Department of Chemistry Professor Christopher (Kit) Cummins has been honored with the 2017 Linus Pauling Medal, in recognition of his unparalleled synthetic and mechanistic studies of early-transition metal complexes, including reaction discovery and exploratory methods of development to improve nitrogen and phosphorous utilization. Cummins, the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Chemistry, will be presented with the Pauling Medal at an award symposium this fall at Portland State University in Oregon.
"I was introduced to Pauling's hugely influential book 'The Nature of the Chemical Bond' as an undergraduate student at Cornell, where I had the incredible honor to meet Linus when he visited to reprise his Baker lectures from a half century earlier, out of which the book had grown," Cummins says. "It is like a dream come true for me to be selected to receive an award named for the human being who gave us so many of chemistry's central concepts. I will dedicate my award lecture to my fantastic students, past and present, for having embarked with me on a rich and still unfolding voyage of scientific discovery."
The Pauling Medal is sponsored jointly by the Portland, Puget Sound, and Oregon sections of the American Chemical Society. It is presented annually in recognition of outstanding achievement in chemistry in the spirit of, and in honor of, Linus Pauling, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1954 and the Nobel Prize for peace in 1962. Cummins joins several current members of the Department of Chemistry in being named a Linus Pauling Medal awardee, including Tim Swager (2016), Stephen Buchwald (2014), and Stephen Lippard (2009), as well as former department members Alexander Rich (1995) and John Waugh (1984).
Researchers in the Cummins Group are developing new methods of inorganic synthesis to address a variety of interesting questions. The activation of small molecules by transition-metal systems is a featured area, with ongoing work in the areas of synthetic nitrogen fixation, carbon dioxide reduction, and while phosphorus utilization. They are developing thermally activated molecular precursors to reactive small molecules or transient intermediates such as diphosphorus and phosphaethyne, molecules of astrophysical importance. Studies on supramolecular anion receptor host-guest chemistry inform their work on dioxygen electron transfer processes, which are germane to solar energy storage and approaches to improved metal-air battery technology. In addition, Cummins Group researchers work to develop new starting materials in phosphate chemistry, including acid forms that provide a starting point for synthesizing new phosphate-based materials with applications in next-generation battery technologies and catalysis. Experimental studies are supplemented with quantum chemical investigations for analysis of chemical bonding, reaction mechanisms, and property predictions.