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Lippard named Priestley Medal recipient

MIT professor Stephen J. Lippard honored for pioneering research, mentorship
Stephen J. Lippard, the Arthur Amos Noyes Professor of Chemistry.
Stephen J. Lippard, the Arthur Amos Noyes Professor of Chemistry.
Photo: Justin Knight

MIT professor Stephen J. Lippard, who is widely acknowledged as one of the founders of the field of bioinorganic chemistry, has been named recipient of the 2014 Priestley Medal, the highest honor conferred by the American Chemical Society (ACS).

According to ACS, Lippard is being recognized “for mentoring legions of scientists in the course of furthering the basic science of inorganic chemistry and paving the way for improvements in human health.”

“It’s an honor to join the very distinguished list of Priestley Medal recipients,” Lippard said in an interview with Chemical & Engineering News. “It also makes me very proud of my postdocs, graduate students, and collaborators, without whose work none of this would have happened. ‘Professor’ stands for ‘professional student.’ The best part about being a professor is that you’re constantly learning from the students in your classes as well as from your lab members.”

The annual Priestley Medal is intended to recognize distinguished service and commemorate lifetime achievement in chemistry.

Lippard, the Arthur Amos Noyes Professor of Chemistry, has spent his career studying the role of inorganic molecules, especially metal ions and their complexes, in critical processes of biological systems. He has made pioneering contributions in understanding the mechanism of the cancer drug cisplatin and in designing new variants to combat drug resistance and side effects.

His research achievements include the preparation of synthetic models for metalloproteins; structural and mechanistic studies of iron-containing bacterial monooxygenases including soluble methane monooxygenase; and the invention of probes to elucidate the roles of mobile zinc and nitric oxide in biological signaling and disease.

Many of the students Lippard has mentored — including more than 110 PhD students, 150 postdocs and hundreds of undergraduates — have gone on to become prominent scientists and teachers.

Robert Langer, Institute Professor at MIT and the 2012 Priestly Award recipient, says, “I'm delighted to see Steve receive the Priestly Medal. He richly deserves it for all the excellent research he has done and for being such a wonderful mentor and collaborator.”

MIT colleague JoAnne Stubbe, the Novartis Professor of Chemistry and a professor of biology, says, “He [Lippard] is an inspiration to us all as a scientist and mentor. I stand in awe at his continual ability to identify and move into exciting new fields, and bring a new perspective and change thinking in the field. There is no university/college untouched by a Lippard trainee. We are all very proud.”

Fellow inorganic chemist and MIT colleague Christopher Cummins, a professor of chemistry, says, “Steve has attracted so many talented individuals to study with him because he selects important research problems and works to solve them with creativity, boundless energy, optimism, and contagious enthusiasm.”

“His work,” Cummins adds, “has pushed back the frontiers of the basic science known as inorganic chemistry, even as it has paved the way for improvements in human health and the conquering of disease. Steve is an educator and a role model par excellence!"

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