Two chemists win top research prizes

"I remember thinking, `Why isn't everybody up here,'" says Chemistry Assoc. Prof. John Sherman

A pair of chemistry professors have won UBC's top research prizes for 1999.

Prof. Anthony Merer was named the recipient of the Prof. Jacob Biely Faculty Research Prize. Assoc. Prof. John Sherman was awarded the Charles A. McDowell Award for Excellence in Research.

Looked upon as UBC's premier research award, the Biely Prize is given in recognition of a distinguished record of recently accomplished published research in any discipline.

"I have to admit, it was a total surprise," says Merer, who has been conducting research in the field of laser spectroscopy at UBC since the mid-1970s.

The Oxford University-educated Merer, who describes his research as "measuring the sizes and shapes of small molecules using their interaction with light," joined the Chemistry Dept. in 1968.

His current experiments use intense coloured lasers to study free radicals--chemical molecules that tend to be highly unstable because of the presence of unpaired electrons. He recently discovered the family of the simplest possible organometallic radicals made up of just three atoms: carbon, hydrogen and a metal.

For Sherman, receiving the >McDowell award--presented for excellence in pure or applied research--was merely half of the accolades he received in one day.

The 38-year-old organic chemist was also named one of 10 recipients of the UBC Killam Research Prize.

"It was a very good week," chuckled Sherman.

Since arriving on campus in 1991, Sherman has focused his research in two areas: the study of carceplexes, or complex molecules within molecules; and the creation of proteins "from scratch." He says building synthetic proteins sheds light on the structure of natural proteins.

Sherman, a New York native, admits he knew little about UBC before he interviewed here. But once he visited, Sherman says he was impressed by the calibre of research.

"I remember thinking, `Why isn't everybody up here,'" he says.

The university has also announced the list of recipients of Killam Research Prizes and 1999 Killam Fellowships.

The $5,000 UBC Killam Research Prizes are awarded annually to top campus researchers and are equally divided between the arts and sciences. The recipients are: Paul Beaudry, Economics; Doug Bonn, Physics and Astronomy; Anthony Dawson, English; Clarence de Silva, Mechanical Engineering; Robert Evans, Economics; Gerald Feltham, Commerce and Business Administration; Robert Jackson, Political Science; John Schrader, Medicine; and Philip Stamp, Physics and Astronomy.

Isaac Walton Killam Memorial Fellowships are given to top up faculty salaries by up to $15,000 while they are on sabbatical leave. As well, scholars receive a $3,000 grant for research and travel expenses. Fellowship winners are: Paul Beaudry, Economics; Gregory Dipple, Earth and Ocean Sciences; Isabel Grant, Law; Nancy Heckman, Statistics; Scott Hinch, Forest Sciences; Faouzi Kossentini, Electrical and Computer Engineering; and Alan Richardson, Philosophy.