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Nobel Prize for visiting academic

6 October 2005

Nobel Prize for visiting academic

For the second time in two years an academic visiting the University of Canterbury has been awarded a Nobel Prize.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm announced overnight that leading organic chemist and current Erskine Fellow, Bob Grubbs, has been awarded the 2005 Nobel Prize in chemistry.

In October 2003 Emeritus Professor Clive Granger was visiting Canterbury when he received the phone call from Sweden telling him he was joint winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics.

Professor Grubbs and this year's other two winners were cited specifically for the development of the metathesis method in organic synthesis.

Metathesis is an organic reaction in which chemists selectively strip out certain atoms in a compound and replace them with atoms that were previously part of another compound. The end result is a custom-built molecule that has specialised properties, such as better drugs for the treatment of disease or better electrical conducting properties for specialised plastics.

According to the Nobel citation, metathesis has already led to industrial and pharmaceutical methods that are more efficient and less wasteful, simpler, and more environmentally friendly.

"This represents a great step forward for 'green chemistry,' reducing potentially hazardous waste through smarter production," the Royal Swedish Academy said.

"Metathesis is an example of how important basic science has been applied for the benefit of man, society, and the environment."

Professor Grubbs is visiting Canterbury University as an Erskine Fellow from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

He says he is especially pleased that the Nobel committee has recognised research that has taken place at Caltech.

"I'm excited for all the outstanding students and postdoctoral fellows who have contributed to this work over the years."


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