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Northwestern chemist receives 2018 Guggenheim Fellowship

William Dichtel joins this year's 173 honorees from a pool of almost 3,000 applicants
Will Dichtel. Credit: MacArthur Foundation

EVANSTON - William R. Dichtel, the Robert L. Letsinger Professor of Chemistry in Northwestern University’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, has been named a 2018 Guggenheim Fellow by the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation.

Dichtel joins a number of scholars, scientists and artists honored by the annual prize. Working in new polymers with controlled structures at the nanoscale, Dichtel is committed to bringing his discoveries out of the lab and into daily use to improve lives. His pioneering work developing porous polymers, known as covalent organic frameworks, has applications in water purification and energy storage. These innovations could lead to batteries that can charge in seconds rather than minutes or hours and materials that rapidly remove pollutants from water.

“I am tremendously honored to receive this recognition,” Dichtel said. “It speaks to the talent and dedication of the members of my research group, both past and present. The support will allow us to focus on a very early-stage effort to understand and control how molecules assemble and react to form materials with designed, uniform structures and tiny voids. These might someday be used to store electricity, purify water or perform other complex functions.”

Selected from a group of almost 3,000 applicants, this year’s 173 honorees come from 49 disciplines, 69 academic institutions, 31 states and 3 Canadian provinces, and range in age from 29 to 80.

“These artists and writers, scholars and scientists, represent the best of the best,” Edward Hirsch, the Foundation’s president, said in a statement. “Each year since 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation has bet everything on the individual, and we’re thrilled to continue to do so with this wonderfully talented and diverse group. It’s an honor to be able to support these individuals to do the work they were meant to do.”

Dichtel is one of just two chemists honored by the Foundation this year. The other chemist, Christy L. Haynes (PhD ’03), is a Northwestern alumna who studied under the direction of professor Richard Van Duyne.

Throughout his career, Dichtel has received many other distinguished honors, including a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, the 2017 Leo Hendrik Baekeland Award recognizing an American chemist under age 40, the National Fresenius Award from the Phi Lambda Upsilon National Chemistry Honor Society, an Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award from the American Chemical Society and a Sloan Research Fellowship from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Before joining Northwestern in summer 2016, Dichtel was an associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Cornell University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley and his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also is the cofounder of CycloPure, Inc., a startup that is commercializing Dichtel’s discovery of porous polymers for water purification.