Two Georgia Tech Faculty Named Fellows by the American Chemical Society

The American Chemical Society (ACS) has named two Georgia Tech professors as fellows for 2011. Paul Houston, dean of the College of Sciences and professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and C. David Sherrill, professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry were added to the ACS Fellows list in August for their work in chemistry as well as their contributions to the society.

Paul Houston Named Fellow by the American Chemical Society
Click image to enlarge

Paul Houston, dean of Georgia Tech's College of Sciences and professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, was honored by the American Chemical Society (ACS) for his work in the field and his contributions to the ACS.

Photo: Georgia Tech

“ACS is especially proud to honor these chemists during the 2011 International Year of Chemistry,” said ACS President Nancy B. Jackson.  “The work they are doing will improve all of our lives as they unleash the power of chemistry to solve global challenges like providing clean water, sufficient food, new energy sources and cures for disease.  But that’s not all. They’re also organizing scientific conferences for their peers, doing outreach with scouts and schools, and being mentors to the next generation of scientists.”  

The ACS Fellows Program was created in December 2008 “to recognize members of ACS for outstanding achievements in and contributions to Science, the Profession, and the Society.” Fellows come from academe, industry and government.

This year the ACS named 213 distinguished scientists who have demonstrated outstanding accomplishments in chemistry and made important contributions to ACS, the world’s largest scientific society. The 2011 Fellows will be recognized at an induction ceremony on August 29 during the Society’s 242nd National Meeting & Exposition in Denver.

“I am honored that these contributions are appreciated by my colleagues,” said Houston, who arrived at Tech in 2007.

Houston’s research involves figuring out how molecules that are involved in combustion or atmospheric chemistry react after they absorb light.

“In the case of combustion, the studies give us information about what intermediate species might be involved in the burning of fuel,” said Houston. “In the case of atmospheric chemistry, our results help to understand how ozone in the stratosphere is created and destroyed.”

“Our work is motivated by scientific curiosity but made possible by the technological advances in tools like lasers and charge coupled device optical elements.  New technologies make new science possible, and that is why it is exciting to be a scientist at a technological institute like Georgia Tech,” he added.

Before taking the dean’s position at Georgia Tech’s College of Sciences, Houston had  a distinguished career at Cornell University where he served as Senior Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences as well as Chair of the Department of Chemistry. He was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2003 and elected into the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2002. He received the Herbert P. Broida Prize from the American Physical Society in 2001. He received his doctorate in the chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

David Sherrill has been at Georgia Tech since 1999.

“It's an honor to be recognized by such a venerable institution as ACS,” said Sherrill.

Sherrill’s research lies in the realm of computational quantum chemistry, which mixes chemistry, physics, mathematics and computational science. It involves developing new theoretical approaches to describe molecules, executing them as efficient computer programs and applying them to study challenging problems in chemistry.

“We are especially interested in non-bonded interactions between molecules, because these interactions govern everything from biomolecular structure to drug docking,” he said.  “My group is developing much more efficient methods to compute and analyze these interactions. We are using the new techniques to understand drug binding and DNA base-pair stacking.”

Sherrill is currently an associate editor for the Journal of Chemical Physics. He was elected as a fellow in the American Physical Society in 2010. He was named a Vasser Woolley Faculty Fellow from 2008-2010. He received the Class of 1940 W. Howard Ector Outstanding Teacher Award in 2006 and the CAREER award from the National Science Foundation in 2001.

Sherrill has been active with the ACS through the years. He has served as a councilor for the Georgia section of ACS as well as a coordinator for National Chemistry Week and chair of the subdivision of theoretical chemistry.

Previous honorees from Georgia Tech include Bridgette Barry, Rigoberto Hernandez and Paul Wine in 2010. Jean-Luc Bredas , Mostafa El-Sayed, Elsa Reichmanis and Laren Tolbert were named as ACS Fellows in 2009.