Richard F. Heck, the Willis F. Harrington Professor Emeritus in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Delaware, won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Heck, 79, received the honor from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm on Dec. 10, alongside fellow researchers Ei-Ichi Negishi, 75, of Purdue University, and Akira Suzuki, 80, of Hok-kaido University in Sapporo, Japan, "for palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic synthesis." They shared a $1.5 million award.
The scientists were honored for discovering "more efficient ways of linking carbon atoms together to build the complex molecules that are improving our everyday lives."
"The University of Delaware is exceptionally proud of Prof. Richard F. Heck and his ground-breaking research in the field of chemistry," UD President Patrick Harker said.
"This is a tremendous accomplishment for Prof. Heck and his colleagues, acknowledging the development of a tremendously sophisticated tool that will aid scientists to make potential cancer drugs and medicines," said Provost Tom Apple, who was a graduate student in chemistry at UD when Heck was on the faculty. Heck retired from UD in 1989.
Douglass Taber, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, who has known Heck as a colleague since 1982, explained the discovery's importance, saying, "All of pharmaceutical chemistry and photolithography, the making of computer chips, depends on carbon bond formation. His [Heck's] contribution was to make that bond catalytic in the expensive metal, making large-scale industrial production affordable. When DNA sequencing became important, Heck chemistry made the coupling of organic dyes to the DNA bases possible."
UD's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry has ties to a second Nobel Prize winner. The late Daniel Nathans, who graduated from UD in 1950 with a bachelor of science degree in chemistry, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1978.
A special scientific symposium will be held in Prof. Heck's honor at the University of Delaware on May 26, 2011. For more information, visit www.udel.edu/nobelsymposium.