Tucson, AZ – April 12, 2012 – Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA), America’s oldest foundation devoted exclusively to science, announced today that it is honoring Sarah E. Reisman, assistant professor of chemistry, California Institute of Technology, with a prestigious academic award, the Cottrell Scholar Award. The Award, one of 11 issued nationally this year, recognizes leaders in integrating science teaching and research at America’s top research universities. Each recipient receives a $75,000 grant and admission to an exclusive community of scholars, the Cottrell Scholars Collaborative.
This year’s awards are made as RCSA celebrates the 100th anniversary of its founding by Frederick Gardner Cottrell, for whom the awards are named. The awards, instituted in 1994, honor Cottrell, a scientist, inventor and philanthropist. Cottrell was a science visionary, whose invention of the electrostatic precipitator was an early environmental innovation that reduced pollution from smokestacks. Cottrell founded what is now RCSA to provide support for scientific research and experimentation at scholarly institutions.
“RCSA has named Reisman a 2012 Cottrell Scholar, based on her innovative research as well as her passion for teaching,” said James M. Gentile, RCSA president and CEO.
Reisman’s research is focused on the chemical synthesis of natural products, molecules that are isolated from plants, fungi, bacteria, and other natural sources. Many natural products exhibit interesting biological properties that may one day prove useful in medicine.
One family of natural products that Reisman is working on is known as the ETPs. Members of this family have a reactive sulfur-sulfur bond, which is proposed to confer many of these molecules with anticancer properties. Reisman and her group are interested in synthesizing a particular subgroup of ETPs that, prior to her research, had never previously been prepared in the laboratory.
Reisman received the Cottrell Scholar Award (CSA) based on her peer-reviewed proposal that included both research and teaching projects.
Her CSA research project involves the development of new reactions that “isomerize” open-chain molecules to ring-containing molecules. In an isomerization reaction, the number of atoms in the starting molecule and product molecule stays the same, but the bonds between the atoms are rearranged. Reisman proposes to use isomerization reactions to prepare the target ETP molecules in fewer steps and in higher yields from commercially available material.
Meanwhile, for her Cottrell Scholar education project, she intends to develop a new freshman seminar at Caltech as part of a new curricular initiative at the school. Her proposed course is entitled, “From Penicillin to the Pill: How Small Molecules Have Changed the Modern World.” It will be open to 10-15 students who will meet with Reisman weekly in an informal, discussion-style setting.
“The goal of the course is to excite students about chemical research by exposing them to the practical applications of chemistry very early in their college careers,” Reisman said.
The Cottrell Scholars program owes its origins to RCSA’s concern with the apparent separation of teaching and research in Ph.D. institutions.
“Rather than being communities of university-scholars, universities are often perceived as collections of specialists,” RCSA’s Gentile said. “We seek to reinforce the growing awareness that these two functions are complementary rather than wholly or partially exclusive.”
As an early-career chemist, Reisman’s work has been called “impressive,” and more senior colleagues have said she shows “exceptional promise” as an academic-based scientist. She received her Ph.D. in organic chemistry at Yale University and did postdoctoral work at Harvard before joining the Caltech faculty.
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About Research Corporation for Science Advancement – Research Corporation for Science Advancement (www.rescorp.org) – formerly known as Research Corporation – was founded in 1912 and is the second-oldest foundation in the United States (after the Carnegie Corporation) and the oldest foundation devoted wholly to science. Research Corporation is a leading advocate for the sciences and a major funder of scientific innovation and of research in America’s colleges and universities. Follow updates from RCSA on Facebook and Twitter.
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