Colorado State University professor Tomislav Rovis has been named a 2013 Arthur C. Cope Scholar by the American Chemical Society, one of the most prestigious honors in organic chemistry.
The award includes a $40,000 unrestricted research grant, plus $5,000 for Rovis, who is the sixth member of CSU’s Department of Chemistry to win the Cope Award.
"Professor Rovis' selection as an Arthur C. Cope Scholar continues CSU's rich and long-standing history of excellence in organic chemistry, providing outstanding research and educational opportunities for students at all levels," said chemistry department chair Ellen Fisher. "Notably, four of the past recipients of the Cope Scholar Award have also served CSU as University Distinguished Professors, including current UDP Robert Williams and emeritus professor Lou Hegedus, along with Al Meyers (deceased) and John Stille (deceased)."
Rovis, who joined CSU’s chemistry faculty in 2000, has won numerous awards for his ground-breaking work in organic chemistry. Earlier this year he won the Katritzky Award from the International Society of Heterocyclic Chemistry, and in 2005 was awarded a Sloan Research Fellowship. Rovis was a Monfort Professor – one of CSU’s most prestigious faculty honors – from 2005-07.
"I am very humbled to be honored with the Cope Scholar Award," Rovis said. "It is a great honor to continue the tradition we have at CSU of winning this award. Bob Williams and Lou Hegedus are giants in this field, and it’s very flattering to be in their company. This really speaks to the quality of this department."
Rovis’ current work focuses on organic synthesis and methods that will make the creation of complex molecules faster and simpler.
"We’re trying to make molecules do things they’re not supposed to do – turning them on their heads, so to speak," Rovis said. "We’re creating carbon-carbon bonds – if you want to make more complex molecules you have to start with carbon-carbon bonds."
If Rovis and his team of graduate and undergraduate researchers can find ways to speed the process, scientists searching for a cure for cancer, for example, will be able to test results much faster than current methods allow.
"My work isn’t going to cure cancer, or any other disease," he said. "What we’re doing is providing tools to others in labs or industrial settings so they can cure cancer. We’re building tools – building a better hammer, as it were. A very sophisticated hammer."
"Making complicated things quicker – that’s the Holy Grail for me. Taking a carbon-hydrogen bond and turning it into a carbon-carbon bond in one step, and figuring out a way to do that easily. I don’t know if it will take five years or 10 years, but eventually we will figure this out."