Paul Chirik, Cornell's Peter J.W. Debye Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, has received the Blavatnik Award from the New York Academy of Sciences. The award recognizes young scientists in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut with "highly innovative, impactful, interdisciplinary accomplishments in the life sciences, physical sciences and engineering."
Chirik, who works at the interface of organic and inorganic chemistry and catalysis, received the award at the academy's sixth Science and the City Gala, Nov. 16 in New York City.
According to his citation, Chirik sees the world's energy needs as molecular chemistry problems, and his research looks at ways to reduce fossil fuel and precious metal dependencies. One ongoing project involves identifying new methods for converting nitrogen gas to fertilizers and pharmaceuticals, while another focuses on replacing toxic precious metals with environmentally benign iron compounds in chemical synthesis.
"What I've always liked about synthetic chemistry is the ability to make something that no one else ever made before," Chirik said. "It's like being an explorer."