Professor Wilfred Van der Donk has been named the winner of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Pedler Award.
The Richard E. Heckert Endowed Chair in Chemistry won the RSC award for the combined application of organic chemistry, molecular biology, and biochemistry to study posttranslationally modified peptides and phosphonate natural products.
Van der Donk, who is also an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Chemistry, said it is humbling, exciting, and scary to receive an award that has been previously won by the early giants in the chemistry field, including Perkin, Wieland, Ruzicka, Robinson and Fischer. The previous winners list also includes people whom van der Donk described as personal heroes, such as J.W. Cornforth and J.E. Baldwin, his PhD mentor Kevin Burgess, his current Illinois chemistry colleague, Professor Scott Denmark, and close friend Helma Wennemers.
“It is a true honor to be in the same list with them and all the other previous winners, and I am deeply grateful to receive this award,” van der Donk said.
Van der Donk, who was born in the Netherlands and holds a Master’s in Chemistry from Leiden University as well as a PhD from Rice University and post-doctoral work at MIT, also receives a monetary award and a medal.
Van der Donk’s laboratory works at the interface between chemistry and biology, studying how enzymes can perform remarkable chemical reactions and whether they can be used to produce value-added materials.
Dr. Helen Pain, acting chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said in recognition of the RSC award winners:
“We live in an era of tremendous global challenges, with the need for science recognized now more so than ever – so it is important to recognize those behind the scenes who are making significant contributions towards improving the world we live in. It is our honor and privilege to do that with these awards, which recognize exceptional scientific achievement.
“The global chemical sciences community is one that covers many different specialisms, from health and climate change to product development, sustainable transport, and everything in between. In recognizing the work of Professor Van der Donk, we are also recognizing the important contribution this incredible network of scientists makes to improving our lives every day.”
The Royal Society of Chemistry’s Prizes and Awards are awarded in recognition of originality and impact of research, or for each winner’s contribution to the chemical sciences industry or education. They also acknowledge the importance of teamwork across the chemical sciences, as well as the abilities of individuals to develop successful collaborations.