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Tuesday, September 26, 2023


Chemist brings first-time award to UH

For the first time, a UH faculty member received the Norman Hackerman Award in Chemical Research.

At 11:30 a.m. Monday in the University Hilton, the Welch Foundation honored associate professor Olafs Daugulis for his work at UH. The annual award that recognizes leadership in research and teaching includes a $100,000 grant.

“Olafs’ research is well deserving of this great honor,” said Mark A. Smith, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “He is a true asset to UH’s chemistry research program and an excellent mentor and teacher to many of our graduate and undergraduate students.”

The Welch Foundation, based in Houston, is one of the oldest and largest private-funding sources for basic chemical research in the U.S.

“Having developed an outstanding record of creative work,” said Wilhelmina E. Robertson, chair of The Welch Foundation, “Daugulis illustrates the meaning of the award.”

Daugulis’ contributions in C-H bond activation have been praised for its originality and practicality. Many of his independent papers have been published in the field’s leading journals, which have been cited more than 400 times, making him an asset to UH’s chemistry research program and a highly regarded mentor to students who show promise in organic and organometallic science.

Daugulis dedicates his energy to exploring the functionalization of carbon-hydrogen bonds.

“His scientific contributions are groundbreaking,” said Marye Anne Fox, the foundation’s Scientific Advisory board chair. “I’m thrilled to see him being acknowledged.”

Daugulis develops new reaction methodology to diminish the amount of steps necessary to transform C-H bond-containing substances into new compounds. His methods can afford synthetic targets in higher yields with fewer steps and less reaction waste.

These methods may ultimately prove useful in effective preparation of drugs for new polymers in the industry. Along with researchers at the University of Chicago, he also has added to the expansion of a new and efficient methane oxidation system.

Several past Hackerman Award recipients were in attendance to see Daugulis being recognized, including the 2011 winner Jason H. Hafner and 2009 winner Cecilia Clementi, both from Rice University.

The Foundation has contributed to the advancement of chemistry through research grants, departmental programs, endowed chairs, Texas Interscholastic League Foundation scholarships and other programs.            

“Fundamental research is intellectually more interesting to me than applied work. I love to come to work every day and think about new things,” Daugulis said. “The Welch Foundation has played an important role in letting me freely explore new directions.”

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