University of Sydney chemist receives 2007 Welch Award

23 May 2007

Respected University of Sydney chemist, Emeritus Professor Noel S. Hush, has been honoured with the 2007 Welch Award in Chemistry.

He will share the award with William H. Miller, Kenneth S. Pitzer Distinguished Professor at the University of California, Berkeley. The citation recognises the two scientists' lifetime achievements in theoretical chemistry.

Professor Hush is the first Australian to receive the award, which is widely recognised as being on par with the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

The Welch Foundation, based in Houston, is one of the oldest and largest sources of private funding for basic research in chemistry. It will present the $300,000 award and gold medallions at a banquet in October.

"The fundamental theoretical work by Hush and Miller in chemical dynamics gives the scientific community powerful, basic research tools," says J. Evans Attwell, chairman of the Board at the Welch Foundation. "Their work not only gives us a much better understanding of chemical processes, but also sets the stage for future scientific discoveries and applications that can benefit mankind.

"Much of our current worldwide research - from nanotechnology to drug design - depends strongly on the models and methods developed by Hush and Miller," says James L. Kinsey, chairman of the Welch Scientific Advisory Board. "Working separately and using quantum mechanics as their theoretical base to tryto explain the properties of molecules and the ways they react, both scientists have contributed greatly to our understanding of a number of chemical phenomena," he says.

Professor Hush has made momentous advances in theoretical and physical chemistry. His most well-known research achievement is the development, starting in the late 1950s and early 1960s, of a model for electron transfer in inorganic and biological compounds.

The Marcus-Hush theory allows chemists to understand reactions and test ideas and has offered considerable insight into the mechanisms of photosynthesis - the way plants use sunlight, air and water to make energy.

Professor Hush's research career spans more than six decades and he remains at the cutting edge of his field. His current research focuses on an area of nanotechnology known as molecular electronics.He collaborates with University of Sydney colleague, Jeffrey Reimers, in theoretical studies and the design of molecular devices.Another long-term area of interest for Professor Hush is in mixed-valency, which is closely linked with electron transfer.

"I find it very satisfying to not only solve a problem, which may involve very heavy computation, but to be able to derive from the solution an essentially simple reason for the phenomenon," says Professor Hush.

Professor Hush, a native of Australia, earned both his bachelor's and master's degrees in chemistry from the University of Sydney. He was appointed a lecturer in physical chemistry at the University of Manchester in the UK in 1950, and later joined the University of Bristol from 1955 until 1971.

During that time, he also earned his doctoral degree from the University of Manchester in 1959. In 1971, Professor Hush returned to Australia to join the faculty of the University of Sydney as the Foundation Professor of Theoretical Chemistry where he served as head of the department from 1971 until 1989. He continues to maintain an active research program at the University of Sydney.

Professor Hush is an Officer of the Order of Australia, a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, a Fellow of the Royal Society of London, a Fellow of the Australian Chemical Institute and one of the few foreign members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Awards he has received include the Flinders Medal of the Australian Academy of Science, the Centenary Medal of the Royal Society of Chemistry, the inaugural David Craig Medal of the Australian Academy of Science, the Physical Chemistry Medal of the Royal Australian Chemical Society and the Australian Federation Medal.

Contact: Jake O'Shaughnessy

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