Texas A&M University Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and National Academy of Sciences member Dr. Marcetta Y. Darensbourg has been selected to receive the 2020 William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement, one of five annual awards presented by Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society to recognize exemplary achievement in science and engineering.
Named in tribute to William Procter, an heir of one of the founders of the Procter and Gamble Company and a distinguished natural scientist of the 20th century, the Procter Prize has been awarded each year since 1950 to a scientist who has made an outstanding contribution to scientific research and demonstrated an ability to communicate the significance of this research to scientists in other disciplines.
Darensbourg is cited for “significant contributions to bioinorganic chemistry from her work on chemistry of the di-iron hydrogenases.”
Darensbourg, an internationally respected expert in synthetic and mechanistic inorganic chemistry and member of the Texas A&M Department of Chemistry faculty since 1982, will be formally recognized this fall at the virtual Sigma Xi Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference, set for November 5-8. She will deliver an invited lecture and be celebrated with a online presentation of the Procter Prize sculpture and a commemorative certificate.
Darensbourg will be joined in November’s online festivities by approximately 300 high school, undergraduate and graduate student participants and myriad distinguished scientists and engineers, including fellow Texas A&M 2020 Sigma Xi honorees Dr. Gerard L. Coté and Dr. Bonnie J. Dunbar. Coté, a professor in the Texas A&M Department of Biomedical Engineering, is set to receive the Walston Chubb Award for Innovation for “leadership in the development of biomedical optical systems for an array of medical applications with clinical impact,” while Dunbar, TEES Eminent Professor in the Texas A&M Department of Aerospace Engineering, will be feted with the John P. McGovern Science and Society Award for “leadership and contributions in aerospace engineering; work spanning industry, academia and government; a commitment to furthering engineering and science education at Texas A&M; and outreach to K-12 students.” Coté and Dunbar also will present plenary lectures as part of the four-day event, titled “Hacking The Brain: The Intersection of Art and Neuroscience.”
“Congratulations to our remarkable faculty members on their selection for these well-deserved awards,” said Texas A&M Vice President for Research Dr. Mark A. Barteau. “Their individual contributions to bioinorganic chemistry, aerospace engineering and biomedical sciences are representative of Texas A&M’s commitment to expanding the frontiers of science and its applications. Recognition by Sigma Xi, a champion of the importance of scientific research, is a testament to the impact of these scholars.”
In addition to a $5,000 honorarium, each Procter Prize recipient receives the opportunity to designate a recipient for a matching $5,000 grant in aid intended to support their research and overall scholarship. Darensbourg has chosen to honor fellow Texas A&M chemist Dr. Tamara Powers in this career-enhancing regard.
A native of Knox County, Kentucky, Darensbourg earned her doctorate in inorganic chemistry at the University of Illinois in 1967 and held faculty appointments at Vassar College (1967-69), State University of New York, Buffalo (1969-71) and Tulane University (1971-82) prior to beginning her independent career at Texas A&M, where was appointed a distinguished professor of chemistry in 2010 and as a Davidson Professor of Science in 2017. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2017 and honored in 2018 as Texas A&M’s first-ever Southeastern Conference Professor of the Year. She is an inaugural fellow of the American Chemical Society (2009) as well as a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (2014) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2011), one the country’s oldest and most prestigious honorary learned societies.
Described as a chief architect of modern bioinorganic chemistry, Darensbourg is a leader in the synthesis of abundant base metal, hydrogen-processing electrocatalysts with the potential to replace platinum in fuel cell electrodes. Although trained as an organometallic chemist with earlier research programs based on transition metals, she began exploring the organometallic-like biocatalysts within microorganisms of ancient origin for use in clean-energy initiatives more than two decades ago.
After first perceiving the possibility of metal hydrides in nature, specifically as intermediates in hydrogenase enzymes, Darensbourg recalls experiencing delight when small organo-iron fragments that she could reproduce in the lab were definitively characterized within them. She says such inspiration lured her further into an emerging field of bioorganometallic chemistry that proved ripe for integrating insights from homogeneous catalysis and metalloenzymes. Her current fundamental studies of nitric oxide in combination with iron also hold strong promise for multiple medicinal applications and related impacts.
A pioneer in many areas of chemistry, Darensbourg became the first-ever female recipient in 1995 of the ACS Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry Award, the society’s top annual honor for inorganic accomplishment. In addition, she has earned the ACS Chicago Section’s 2019 Willard Gibbs Medal, 2017 ACS Award in Organometallic Chemistry and 2013 Fred Basolo Medal for Outstanding Research in Inorganic Chemistry. Her many career honors also include the 1998 ACS Southwest Region Award and the 2011 Distinguished Scientist Award from the Texas A&M chapter of Sigma Xi.
To date, Darensbourg has authored more than 275 refereed papers, co-edited two specialty chemistry books, co-authored a freshman chemistry textbook and given plenary lectures at several prestigious international conferences. In addition to teaching courses in organometallic and inorganic chemistry, she has directed the dissertations of nearly 60 students during her almost four-decade Texas A&M career. Darensbourg also has received nearly every teaching and student mentoring award offered by the university, including Texas A&M Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Awards in three separate categories: Teaching (1986); Research (1995) and Graduate Mentoring (2012).
Darensbourg is active in professional bodies beyond the ACS, including the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and advisory panels for the Petroleum Research Fund and National Academy of Sciences. She currently serves on the editorial boards for Inorganic Chemistry, Inorganic Syntheses and Chemical Communications and is editor of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“I continue to be grateful to all the graduate and undergraduate students who help develop and fulfill our dream experiments,” Darensbourg said. “I am especially impressed by the high-quality international students who find their way to Texas and become loyal, hardworking Aggies — enhancing our reputation all over the world.”
To learn more about Darensbourg and her research, visit the M.Y. Darensbourg Research Laboratories website.
Find additional information about the Procter Prize, including the list of previous recipients.
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Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Dr. Marcetta Y. Darensbourg, (979) 845-5417 or email@example.com