HOUSTON -- Dr. Oleg V. Ozerov
, professor of chemistry at Texas A&M University, today was named the 2012 recipient of the Norman Hackerman Award in Chemical Research
for his work in organometallic chemistry and its applications in catalysis and energy.
Ozerov's research explores molecular design, targeting either unusual molecular structures or new ways to make or break chemical bonds, including discoveries with potential significance for a greener environment.
The Hackerman Award is bestowed annually by the Houston-based Welch Foundation
, one of the nation's oldest and largest sources of private funding for basic research in chemistry, to researchers early in their careers working in Texas.
Ozerov was recognized Wednesday (Feb. 8) at an on-campus luncheon hosted by The Welch Foundation at the Clayton W. Williams Jr. Alumni Center, where he will be presented with the crystal rising star sculpture and $100,000.
"At only 35, Dr. Ozerov already has made significant contributions in both transition metals and main group chemistry that may ultimately improve our world," said Wilhelmina E. (Beth) Robertson, Welch Foundation chair. "Known for his chemical ingenuity, his work is aimed at exploring exciting new facets of chemistry."
In one significant achievement, he has found a new way to break the carbon-fluorine bond -- one of the strongest in chemistry -- at room temperature. Many of the super greenhouse gases believed involved in global warming have these types of bonds, which typically exist almost indefinitely. He has demonstrated a technique to convert these compounds into something more benign. This work may lead to the ability to destroy atmospheric pollutants such as CFCs, HFCs and possibly PFCs.
In other important work, Ozerov created pincer ligands that can attach to transition metals to create new catalysts. These ligands allow exquisite control over the reactivity of transition metal complexes in catalysis and fundamental explorations. Using ligand design as a tool, he has developed improved catalysts as well as generated fundamental discoveries on both reactivity and structure.
"Dr. Ozerov has an unusual ability to move effortlessly among very different areas of synthetic chemistry without losing rigor or depth of thought and accomplishment," said Marye Anne Fox, chair of the Foundation's Scientific Advisory Board. "His research prowess in very different parts of the periodic table is testament to his intelligence, creativity and broad grasp of chemical fundamentals. His work addresses important issues and is driving new research directions."
Ozerov's lab is one of 17 research groups globally that are part of the National Science Foundation-funded Powering the Planet: Center for Chemical Innovation project
on solar energy. His group's work focuses on developing new ways to make oxygen-oxygen bonds, which are important to storing energy in chemical fuels.
"Chemistry fascinates me, and my field of organometallic chemistry offers the opportunity to be conversant with many areas: inorganic, organic, physical, computational," Ozerov said. "If you say something is difficult to do, it's like the red flag to the bull, and we have to figure out how to do it. I am deeply appreciative that The Welch Foundation has recognized our work with this prestigious award."
The researcher, who joined the Texas A&M faculty as a professor of chemistry from Brandeis University in 2009, is a dedicated teacher, many of whose students have already gone on to productive scientific careers. He believes in exposing his research group -- currently 15 undergraduates, graduates and postdoctoral students -- to problems in very different areas of chemistry.
The son of two retired economists, Ozerov completed his undergraduate studies at the Higher Chemical College of the Russian Academy of Science and his Ph.D. at the University of Kentucky. He has published some 65 papers, and his work has been recognized with the Pure Chemistry Award
from the American Chemical Society, a Research Corporation Innovation Award, an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship and a Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award.
He and wife Nicole have one daughter, Victoria, 3.
The Hackerman Award is named in honor of Norman Hackerman, a noted scientist and longtime chair of The Welch Foundation's Scientific Advisory Board. It is presented annually to scientists who are early in their careers and conducting basic research in chemistry in Texas.
Ozerov is the second Texas A&M chemist to earn selection for the prestigious award since its inception in 2002. Fellow chemistry professor Dr. Paul S. Cremer
previously received the honor in 2006
For more than a half century, The Welch Foundation has been supporting basic chemical research in Texas through grants to researchers at colleges and universities, support for chemistry departments at smaller colleges and universities, funding of endowed chairs, an annual chemical research conference and a summer program for high school students, among other initiatives. The Foundation also bestows the prestigious Welch Award each year for achievement in basic research in chemistry to benefit humankind.
For more information on the Foundation and a list of previous Hackerman Award recipients, please visit www.welch1.org
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