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Northwestern professor wins prestigious international Harvey Prize

Tobin Marks awarded the honor for breakthroughs in chemistry
Tobin Marks

EVANSTON - Northwestern University Professor Tobin J. Marks will be awarded the 2017 Harvey Prize in Science and Technology for his breakthrough research in chemistry.

Marks, the Vladimir N. Ipatieff Professor of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, has made major contributions in the field of the chemical sciences, specifically catalysts and catalytic processes, opto-electronic materials and organometallic chemistry. 

Over the course of his 45-year academic career, he has created new plastics, catalysts for environmentally benign chemical transformations and efficient plastic solar cells. He has also created printable transistors and organic light-emitting diodes that are faster, more energy efficient and more versatile.

“I am delighted to join the distinguished cohort of Harvey Prize winners and to receive this international distinction which honors achievements in all fields of science and technology,” Marks said. “I thank all of my students and colleagues, past and present, for their invaluable contributions.”

Marks also serves as Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering in Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and as Professor of Applied Physics.

The Harvey Prize, awarded by the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, was established in 1972 as a bridge of goodwill between Israel and other nations. It is awarded annually to “individuals who have made significant contributions to humankind." 

Approximately 20 percent of Harvey Prize winners have gone on to win the Nobel Prize, the most recent being Rainer Weiss and Kip Thorne who received the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of gravitational waves.

In citing Marks’ achievements, the Harvey Foundation said that Marks was selected “for his groundbreaking research that has both fundamental and practical significance, in the areas of catalysis, organo-f-element chemistry, electronic and photonic materials, and coordination chemistry.” The Harvey Foundation said his research has strongly impacted contemporary chemical science.

Professor Carla Shatz from Stanford University also was awarded a Harvey Prize for her discoveries about the emergence and function of brain circuits for vision. Marks and Shatz will receive $75,000 each from the Harvey Foundation. The prizes will be awarded in a ceremony on June 10.

Marks’ landmark research is documented in 1,255 peer-reviewed publications and 265 U.S. patents. He has mentored and trained many graduate students, and he has tirelessly served the American Chemical Society and international science societies. Marks partnered with the Dow Chemical Company to develop a world-scale $100 billion polymerization process and co-founded the startups Polyera Corp. and Flexterra Corp. to produce printed electronics.

Marks has received numerous awards for his research, including the U.S. National Medal of Science, the National Academy of Sciences Award in Chemical Sciences, the Dreyfus Prize in the Chemical Sciences, the Spanish Prince of Asturias Prize, the German Chemical Society Karl Ziegler Prize, the Materials Research Society Von Hippel Award, the Chinese Academy of Sciences President’s Distinguished Scientist (Einstein) Award and other British, European and Asian recognitions. 

American Chemical Society (ACS) honors include the ACS Priestley Medal, the ACS Award in Organometallic Chemistry, the ACS Award in Inorganic Chemistry, the ACS Award in the Chemistry of Materials, the ACS Award for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry, the ACS Somorjai Award for Creative Research in Catalysis, the ACS Arthur Cope Senior Scholar Award in Organic Chemistry, the William H. Nichols Medal, the Theodore W. Richards Medal and a number of other awards from ACS sections.  

Marks is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the German and Indian National Academies of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Inventors.