Kit Cummins awarded the American Chemical Society Pauling Medal

Danielle Randall
June 26, 2017

This article was also featured on the MIT News Page.

Professor Kit Cummins, the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Chemistry, has been named the 2017 Awardee of the Linus Pauling Medal, in recognition of Professor Cummins' unparalleled synthetic and mechanistic studies of early-transition metal complexes, including reaction discovery and exploratory methods of development to improve nitrogen and phosphorous utilization. Professor Cummins will be presented with the Pauling Medal at an Award Symposium this Fall at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon.

"I was introduced to Pauling's hugely influential book, The Nature of the Chemical Bond, as an undergraduate student at Cornell where I had the incredible honor to meet Linus when he visited to reprise his Baker lectures from a half century earlier, out of which the book had grown," Professor Cummins states. "It is like a dream come true for me to be selected to receive an award named for the human being who gave us so many of chemistry's central concepts.  I will dedicate my award lecture to my fantastic students, past and present, for having embarked with me on a rich and still unfolding voyage of scientific discovery."

The Pauling Medal is sponsored jointly by the Portland, Puget Sound, and Oregon sections of the American Chemical Society, and is presented annually in recognition of outstanding achievement in Chemistry in the spirit of, and in honor of, Linus Pauling. Professor Cummins joins several current members of the Department of Chemistry in being named a Linus Pauling Medal Awardee, including Tim Swager (2016), Stephen Buchwald (2014), and Stephen Lippard (2009), as well as former Department members Alexander Rich (1995) and John Waugh (1984).

Researchers in the Cummins Group are developing new methods of inorganic synthesis to address a variety of interesting questions. The activation of small molecules by transition-metal systems is a featured area, with ongoing work in the areas of synthetic nitrogen fixation, carbon dioxide reduction, and while phosphorus utilization. They are developing thermally activated molecular precursors to reactive small molecules or transient intermediates such as diphosphorus and phosphaethyne, molecules of astrophysical importance. Studies on supramolecular anion receptor host-guest chemistry inform their work on dioxygen electron transfer processes, which are germane to solar energy storage and approaches to improved metal-air battery technology. In addition, Cummins Group researchers work to develop new starting materials in phosphate chemistry including acid forms that provide a starting point for synthesizing new phosphate-based materials with applications in next-generation battery technologies and catalysis. Experimental studies are supplemented with quantum chemical investigations for analysis of chemical bonding, reaction mechanisms, and property predictions.