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Stang Wins Chemistry’s Highest Honor for Discovering Molecules’ ‘Lego-Like’ Structure

Stang Wins American Chemical Society's Highest Honor

This article is adapted from an American Chemical Society news release.

NEW ORLEANS — Peter J. Stang, distinguished professor of chemistry at the University of Utah and editor of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, accepted the 2013 Priestley Medal during the American Chemical Society’s annual meeting in New Orleans. It is the highest honor bestowed by the world’s largest scientific society.

The award recognizes Stang’s cutting-edge research that has had far-reaching implications for many areas of science, including drug development and more efficient ways to produce gasoline and home heating oil. The annual award includes a gold medallion designed to commemorate the work of Joseph Priestley, who lived from 1733 to 1804, and is best remembered for his 1774 discovery of the gas that would later be named “oxygen.”

“Stang is a pre-eminent organic chemist with an international reputation and seminal, creative contributions to a broad spectrum of chemistry,” said Gabor Somorjai, of the University of California, Berkeley. Somorjai nominated Stang for this award.

Stang accepted the Priestley Medal April 9, 2013, during a banquet at the society’s annual meeting. The award first was announced last July.

In 2011, Stang won a National Medal of Science, which is the highest U.S. honor for a scientist or engineer. He received the award from President Barack Obama in a White House ceremony, where he was honored “for his creative contributions to the development of organic supramolecular chemistry and for his outstanding and unique record of public service.”

Stang has pioneered the field of supramolecular chemistry, which is the study of how molecules come together and build new substances with complex 2-D and 3-D architectures. The molecules could have uses as drug-delivery vehicles and as key players in making oil refining faster and more efficient.

“It’s like a Lego set with individual building units,” said Stang. “You can make complicated structures and systems.”

Stang has been editor of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the society’s flagship journal, since 2002. As editor, Stang revitalized and enhanced the journal, culminating in an increase in citations and its impact factor. The most-cited journal in chemistry, the Journal of the American Chemical Society has received 408,307 total citations and has an impact factor of 9.907, as reported in the 2011 Journal Citation Reports by Thomson Reuters. The journal is one of more than 40 of the society’s peer-reviewed journals.

“For many years, Stang has been a force to be reckoned within the ACS,” said Harry B. Gray, who is at the California Institute of Technology. “He brought new ideas to make sure our flagship journal continues to attract the most important work in chemistry. He has done a fabulous job, and chemistry is better for it.”