UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
UH Chemist Captures Second Prestigious Award This Year
By Susan Hammons
Natural Sciences and Mathematics Communications

For the second time in four months, a University of Houston chemist has won a significant national award recognizing exceptional young researchers.

Assistant Professor Olafs Daugulis is one of only 15 faculty in the chemical sciences selected this year as a Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar. The award, announced in May, comes with a $75,000 unrestricted research grant.

The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation bestows the honor on researchers who are in the first five years of their academic careers, have produced an independent body of outstanding scholarship and have shown a commitment to education. Daugulis joined other 2008 recipients from such schools as Cornell University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, John Hopkins University and the University of California, Berkeley.

“Dr. Daugulis’ research performance as a faculty member at the University of Houston has truly been exceptional,” said John L. Bear, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “This is evidenced by the numerous prestigious national awards he has won since he has been here.”

In February, Daugulis was among 118 young scientists, mathematicians and economists in the United States and Canada named a 2008 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow. In 2007, he received a National Science Foundation Career Award, which he had to decline because it overlapped with National Institutes of Health funding.

The editorial boards of Synlett and Synthesis also selected him as a 2006 Journal Awardee. The journals define individuals selected for this award as promising young professors at the beginning of their career.

Responsible for earning Daugulis these accolades are his simplified techniques for making compounds potentially useful for manufacturing such products as pharmaceuticals and plastics. To make such products, chemists begin with natural compounds, such as oil, that have a single bond between carbon and hydrogen atoms. They then convert this to another type known as a carbon-carbon bond to create the end product.

Daugulis’ methods make current chemical processes shorter and more efficient and environmentally friendly. Specifically, he has developed the first general method for converting alkane carbon-hydrogen bonds to carbon-carbon bonds and a method to replace an expensive palladium catalyst with a cheaper copper catalyst for arene carbon-hydrogen bond conversion to a carbon-carbon bond.

Daugulis joined the UH faculty in 2003. He earned the degree of engineer from Riga Technical University in his native Latvia in 1991, and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1999. He later worked as postdoctoral associate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

For more on the Dreyfus award and a list of current winners, see http://www.dreyfus.org/news/tc2008.shtml.
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