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Stephen Lippard Wins Faculty's Killian Award
Chemist recognized for groundbreaking studies of inorganic molecules.
Anne Trafton, MIT News Office
May 16, 2013
Stephen J. Lippard, who is widely acknowledged as one of the founders of the field of bioinorganic chemistry, is this year's recipient of MIT's James R. Killian Jr. Faculty Achievement Award.
Established in 1971 to honor MIT's 10th president, the Killian Award recognizes extraordinary professional achievements by an MIT faculty member.
In announcing this year's award at the May 15 faculty meeting, the award committee noted that Lippard's 'groundbreaking work has pushed back the frontiers of inorganic chemistry, while simultaneously paving the way for improvements in human health and the conquering of disease.'
Lippard, the Arthur Amos Noyes Professor of Chemistry, has spent his career studying the role of inorganic molecules, especially metal ions and their complexes, in critical processes of biological systems. He has made pioneering contributions in understanding the mechanism of the cancer drug cisplatin and in designing new variants to combat drug resistance and side effects.
His research achievements include the preparation of synthetic models for metalloproteins; structural and mechanistic studies of iron-containing bacterial monooxygenases including soluble methane monooxygenase; and the invention of probes to elucidate the roles of mobile zinc and nitric oxide in biological signaling and disease.
'It's humbling,' Lippard said of receiving the award. 'Many of my MIT heroes are on the list of previous recipients, and it's really an honor to join them.'
'I am indebted to my wonderful group of students, both graduate and undergraduate, as well as many talented postdoctoral associates who have worked in my lab over the years to produce the research results that are recognized by this award,' he added. 'I also thank my wife Judy for her love and support.'
Lippard earned his PhD in chemistry from MIT in 1965 and spent a year at the Institute as a postdoc before joining the faculty of Columbia University in 1966. He returned to MIT as a professor in 1983 and served as the head of the Department of Chemistry from 1995 to 2005. He has published more than 800 scientific papers and recorded nearly 30 patents. With Jeremy Berg, he published 'Principles of Bioinorganic Chemistry,' which is regarded as the definitive text in the field.
The award citation noted that in addition to his exceptional work as a scientist, 'Professor Lippard has excelled as a teacher and mentor, fostering the training of a generation of leading young scientists in the field of bioinorganic chemistry.' He has trained more than 100 PhD students and an even greater number of postdocs.
'After years of great science, scholarship, and service, Professor Lippard still projects a wonderful youthful enthusiasm when discussing new research results, or when teaching freshman chemistry to new MIT undergraduates,' according to the award citation, read at the May 15 faculty meeting by Michel Goemans, chair of the Killian Award selection committee and a professor of mathematics.
Lippard's many other awards include the Linus Pauling Medal, the UK Royal Society of Chemistry Centenary Medal, the Ronald Breslow Award for Achievement in Biomimetic Chemistry, the Alfred Bader Award in Bioinorganic or Bioorganic Chemistry, and the National Medal of Science. He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the National Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Volume 91 Issue 23
Stephen Lippard Named Priestley Medalist
By Bethany Halford
June 5, 2013
Stephen J. Lippard, the Arthur Amos Noyes Professor of Chemistry at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will be the recipient of the 2014 Priestley Medal, the American Chemical Society's most prestigious honor. Lippard, 72, is being recognized "for mentoring legions of scientists in the course of furthering the basic science of inorganic chemistry and paving the way for improvements in human health," according to the society.
"It's an honor to join the very distinguished list of Priestley Medal recipients," Lippard tells C&EN. "It also makes me very proud of my postdocs, graduate students, and collaborators, without whose work none of this would have happened. 'Professor' stands for 'professional student.' The best part about being a professor is that you're constantly learning from the students in your classes as well as from your lab members."
Lippard describes his research as unraveling the complexities of metals in biology and devising metal-based drugs such as platinum-based anticancer agents. "Steve Lippard helped create the field of bioinorganic chemistry," says Jacqueline K. Barton, a chemistry professor at California Institute of Technology. "He has also been a true leader in the chemical community through his writing, his outstanding teaching and mentoring of students, and his service to the community. As a former student of Steve's, I know that he is an exceptional mentor, one who I and many others try to emulate."
A native of Pittsburgh, Lippard was a premed student focusing on English literature at Haverford College before his fascination with chemistry led to his choosing it as his major. He did his graduate and postdoctoral work at MIT. In 1966, he joined the faculty at Columbia University, where he worked until he was lured away by MIT in 1983.
During his 47 years as a principal investigator, Lippard has trained 111 Ph.D. students, more than 150 postdocs, and countless undergraduates. He has authored more than 830 papers and dozens of patents. Along with Jeremy M. Berg, director of the University of Pittsburgh's Institute of Personalized Medicine, Lippard coauthored "Principles of Bioinorganic Chemistry," which remains a leading text in the field nearly 20 years after its publication.
"Lippard brings additional luster to the impressive list of previous Priestley Medal winners," Berg says, pointing to Lippard's work with platinum anticancer drugs, such as cisplatin. "His laboratory pioneered studies of the inorganic chemistry of the interactions of this compound with DNA," Berg notes. "He has also performed detailed biochemical and biological studies of the mechanism of action of these drugs to reveal why the lesions formed on DNA are selectively toxic to cancer cells."
Kenneth D. Karlin, a former student of Lippard's who teaches chemistry at Johns Hopkins University, notes his mentor's work studying the structure and mechanism of methane monooxygenase, an enzyme that oxidizes recalcitrant C–H bonds in alkanes and especially methane. "Since oxygen is a cheap and clean energy source, a fundamental understanding of how systems like methane monooxygenase use carbon could have important implications for new sources of energy," Karlin says.
Lippard "has made key scientific contributions that improve life for Earth and its people, ranging from the development of more effective cancer medications to new ways of sustaining a cleaner environment," notes ACS President Marinda Li Wu. "Steve also has been an outstanding educator and mentor for generations of younger scientists who will continue that work into the 21st century."