Polymer chemist Eugene Chen receives national honor from American Chemical Society

Eugene Chen, the John K. Stille Endowed Chair in Chemistry at Colorado State University, has received a national honor from the American Chemical Society for scientific contributions of major significance to his field.

Professor Eugene Chen
Eugene Chen

The CSU Department of Chemistry faculty member is a recipient of the American Chemical Society Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award, which recognizes and encourages excellence in organic chemistry.

Chen has been so honored for his accomplishments in organocatalysis and organic polymers, particularly for developing selective catalysts, new organocatalyic or metal-mediated reactions, and novel, sustainable polymers.

A major theme of Chen’s research is creating waste-free, sustainable materials that can compete with conventional petroleum plastics. A recent publication in the journal Science describes one such polymer that has practical, plastic-like qualities but can be fully recycled back to its small-molecule state as a breakthrough in complete chemical recyclability. That polymer work was named “Research of the Year” for 2018 by Chemical and Engineering News.

In his Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award citation, Chen thanked his mentors who have shaped his career, but in true chemist fashion, pointed to a molecular formula as a role model ­– C3H3. “[It is] not the smallest aromatic cyclopropenium cation, as you might think,” he said. “It is rather a simple combination of clear head, clever hands, and clean habits. This model has guided me and my students to strive to be good chemists who have this C3H3 quality: critical thinkers with a strong work ethic, skillful lab techniques, and reliable data producing and processing practices.”

A colleague at Northwestern University, Tobin J. Marks, had this to say about Chen’s work:

“Chen has made seminal contributions to organocatalysis and organic polymers by developing extraordinarily selective catalysts, highly original organocatalytic and metal-catalyzed polymerization processes, and novel stereoregular and recyclable sustainable polymers,” Tobin said. “His diverse accomplishments have broken much new ground, and his science evidences the highest scholarly standards from conception through to execution and eloquent exposition.”

Recipients of the Arthur C. Cope Award will be honored during the American Chemical Society’s national meeting in San Diego, Aug. 25-29.