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Edgerton faculty award goes to Pete Seeberger


Professor Peter H. Seeberger is the 2002 Harold E. Edgerton Faculty Achievement Award winner, Professor Triantaphyllos R. Akylas, chair of the Edgerton Faculty Achievement Selection Committee, announced at the faculty meeting last Wednesday, April 17.

The award, established in 1982, is given each year to an untenured faculty member for distinction in teaching and in research or scholarship. The award honors the late Institute Professor Edgerton (Sc.D. 1931), whose pioneering research in stroboscopic photography provided the foundation to develop the modern electronic speed flash.

"I am thrilled and thankful to my students, co-workers and colleagues to receive an award named after Doc Edgerton, who personified interdisciplinary research and technological breakthrough," said Seeberger, the Firmenich Career Development Assistant Professor of Chemistry.

Professor Akylas said Seeberger was chosen for "his fundamental contributions" to the sciences of biochemistry and synthetic organic chemistry.

"His work holds enormous promise for the development in the future of vaccines against a number of infectious agents, more specifically those caused by parasites, including malaria," Akylas said.

Seeberger, who received the B.S. from the University of Erlangen-Numberg in 1989 and the Ph.D. from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1995, began his research on the problem of the synthesis of complex oligosaccharides as a post-doctoral fellow at the Sloan-Kettering Institute in New York. He joined the MIT faculty in 1998 as an assistant professor and continued this research.

"While piloting this extraordinary research and development effort over the past four years, Professor Seeberger has played a significant role as lecturer in the classroom and mentor of doctoral students," Akylas said. "He has taught a wide range of undergraduate and graduate courses in the chemistry curriculum and been recognized for the high quality of his teaching. Beyond this, he has developed a new course, biorganic chemistry, which draws in part from his own research and from the new research field in which synthetic organic chemistry is used for the creation of a wide range of biological molecules."

Seeberger, named by Technology Review as one of the country's 100 top young innovators in 1999, delivered the Sigma Xi lecture last May. He has held the Firmenich chair since 1999. He was selected as an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow and a GlaxoKlineSmith Research Scholar earlier this year.

Other activity at the meeting included:
Professor Alar Toomre, chair of the Committee on Nominations, introduced the list of 39 nominees for 2002-03 committees, which included 10 candidates who had not previously served. The list is available here .

Professor Arthur Baggeroer, chair of the Committee on Corporate Relations, introduced a motion that would disband the committee, which has been relatively inactive in recent years. The responsibilities of the committee would be assumed by the Faculty Policy Committee.

Dean for Student Life Larry Benedict reported a dramatic decrease in disciplinary actions during the 2000-01 year. Seventy-eight students were cited for acts of personal misconduct compared to 170 the previous year. Professor Derek Rowell, chair of the Committee on Discipline, reported 10 cases of academic misconduct for 2000-01, divided between plagiarism and academic dishonesty.

Professor Stephen Graves, chair of the faculty, reported on harassment in 2000-01, standing in for Professor Emeritus Jay Keyser, who conducted the annual survey. He said more than 90 percent of respondents reported handling no harassment complaints in the past year. The 55 instances cited equaled the number for 1999-2000. There were 26 reports of general harassment and 18 of sexual harassment.

Chancellor Phillip Clay cited specific examples of ROTC leadership training made available to students not enrolled in the military programs.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 24, 2002.

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