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  • 04/04/17

    Professor Tolman receives 2017 ACS Award for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry

Professor William Tolman received the 2017 American Chemical Society Award for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry, Tuesday, April 4, at the ACS National Meeting in San Francisco.
Professor William Tolman received the 2017 American Chemical Society Award for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry, Tuesday, April 4, at the ACS National Meeting in San Francisco.

Professor William B. Tolman, chair of the Department of Chemistry, received the 2017 American Chemical Society Award (ACS) for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry, Tuesday, April 4, 2017, at the ACS National Meeting in San Francisco.. He was honored for his research accomplishments, excellent teaching and mentorship of students and post-doctoral researchers, and outstanding leadership and service in the inorganic chemistry community. 

Tolman’s research program encompasses synthetic bioinorganic chemistry and catalysis relevant to renewable polymers, with an emphasis on synthesis of novel compounds, characterization of their properties, and detailed mechanistic studies of important reaction chemistry. 

His work on the synthesis, characterization, and reactivity of novel copper complexes relevant to copper-containing metalloenzyme active sites has been particularly impactful. Among his notable discoveries is the first identification of the bis(oxo)dicopper core, and the finding that it can isomerize to a (peroxo)dicopper unit, illustrating the reversible making and breaking of the O-O bond in a dimetallic system. 

Other key findings from Tolman’s research group include:

  • preparation of the most accurate models of the type 1 copper sites—ubiquitous electron transfer centers in biology;
  • preparation of the controversial CuA site—a delocalized mixed-valence center found in several critically important multicopper enzymes; 
  • synthesis of the first example of a copper(III)-hydroxide species that rapidly attacks C–H bonds; 
  • development of a myriad new copper-sulfur clusters, including one that activates N2O as in a key nitrogen cycle enzyme; and
  • first examples of copper-phenoxyl radical complexes relevant to important oxidases. 

In the renewable polymer area, he has developed a range of new metal-alkoxide catalysts that polymerize lactones and has performed insightful mechanistic studies on these reactions, and is an active member of the Center for Sustainable Polymers—a National Science Foundation Center for Chemical Innovation. 

These discoveries as well as numerous others have been reported in more than 200 patents, book chapters, and journal publications. The impact of his work is reflected by more than 16,000 citations (Google Scholar), an h-index of 72, hundreds of invited lectures, including many plenaries, continuous support form the National Institutes of Health (NIH) since 1992, including a MERIT award (2008-18), and a number of awards.

Tolman’s contributions to the field extend beyond research. He has had an impact on many students and post-doctoral associates, including 48 undergraduate researchers, 45 graduate students, and 49 post-doctorates through his outstanding teaching, mentorship, and course development activities. These efforts have been recognized by a Camille & Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award and the University’s prestigious Charles E. Bowers Teaching Award. He is also one of the University’s Distinguished McKnight University Professors.

He is deeply committed to the broader inorganic chemistry community, showing that commitment through myriad activities. An organizer of many symposia at ACS meetings, Tolman also served on the organizing committee of the 9th International Conference on Biological Inorganic Chemistry, which was held in Minneapolis in 1999, and chaired two Gordon Research Conferences (Inorganic Reaction Mechanisms, 2005, and Metals in Biology, 2011). He has served on multiple NIH study sections, including a regular five-year term and ad hocs. 

Most significantly, Tolman has served the American Chemical Society in important and time-consuming ways, including as a member of the ACS-Petroleum Research Fund advisory board (2011-present), and with the Division of Inorganic Chemistry as chair of the Bioinorganic Subdivision (2002-04) and as councilor (2013-15). Since 2013, he has been editor-in-chief of Inorganic Chemistry—the flagship ACS journal in the field. His creative journal activities include virtual issues that celebrate young inorganic chemists, the annual Inorganic Chemistry Lectureship Award, and forums and special issues. 

He is Fellow of the American Chemical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In addition to his service to the broader chemistry community, Professor Tolman has served as the Department of Chemistry’s chair since 2009. He joined the department’s faculty in 1990 after a post-doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and earning his doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley.