Debbie C. Crans, professor of Chemistry and Cell and Molecular Biology at Colorado State University, is the 2019 recipient of the American Chemical Society (ACS) award for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of lnorganic Chemistry.
Crans is the first person in Colorado to receive this recognition. She also is only the third woman to receive this award out of 55 total recipients dating back to 1965. Referred to as the “Oscars of Chemistry,” the award recipient list includes Nobel Prize winners William Lipscomb and Henry Taube.
The award is a two-part recognition, focusing on service and research. Crans encompasses both areas with her exceptional leadership to the inorganic chemistry community as well as her important contributions to fundamental coordination chemistry and speciation, especially of vanadium, the study of metals in medicine. Along with a certificate, Crans was awarded $5,000.
“This recognition is not just for me,” Crans said. “It reflects on all women, showing that it’s possible for women to earn something like this if they are devoted and truly passionate about what they do. Knowledge empowers you, and when you have the knowledge to do something, you can do it.”
Crans has been with ACS for nearly 40 years, and for the past decade, she has held the position of assistant program chair for the division of inorganic chemistry. During her time with ACS, she has helped revolutionize the organization for younger members by instituting student travel, young investigator and undergraduate awards in the inorganic division. She also established award symposia for award winners in the inorganic division, which brought in more chemists to the national meetings.
“When you do service, it benefits you as well,” Crans said. “You do it to help the profession and the discipline, but by helping others, they can graduate to become advocates. That’s the neatest part.”
Taking a large role in mentorship, Crans has mentored more than 250 students. A large number of these students have been undergraduates with around 60 students being graduate or postgraduate students.
Crans has published over 200 peer-reviewed manuscripts. Her interest is in the fundamental chemistry and biochemistry of drugs with particular interests in vanadium and other transition metal ions as metals in medicine and health and their mechanisms of toxicity.
Crans, who holds a Ph.D. in organic chemistry, is a first-generation college student with no scientific background in her family.
“It’s humbling,” Crans said. “Now, I’m part of the history, which just makes me so incredibly excited. I was on cloud nine the entire time during the spring American Chemical Society Meeting in Orlando.”