Alum Hye Kyung Timken to receive NAS Award for Chemistry in Service to Society

Hye Kyung Timken

Alum Hye Kyung Timken (PhD, '87, Oldfieldhas been chosen to receive the 2023 NAS Award for Chemistry in Service to Society.

The NAS is in recognition of Timken’s groundbreaking work at Chevron on innovative catalysts, which has been instrumental in making oil refineries safer, and fossil fuels more environmentally friendly.

Timken has been instrumental in leading the development and commercialization of Chevron’s ionic liquid-based ISOALKYTM Technology, which can be used by hundreds of oil refineries worldwide to improve process safety and reduce environmental impacts of fuel production. This technology has substantially decreased risks associated with gasoline production while providing more efficient conversion of petroleum to fuels.

“I feel really humbled to receive this award,” Timken said in a news release from Chevron. “This technology was made possible because so many people worked on it. I want to thank all of my colleagues who contributed because this isn’t just my work. This took a village of easily a thousand people.”

In 2020, Timken received an Alumni Achievement Award from the College of LAS at Illinois for development of this technology. 

She is one of 16 individuals selected to receive 2023 NAS awards recognizing their extraordinary scientific achievements in a wide range of fields spanning the physical, biological, social, and medical sciences. Timken and the other winners will be honored in a ceremony during the National Academy of Sciences' 160th annual meeting on April 30.

Catherine J. Murphy, current Head of the Department of Chemistry and herself a member of the National Academy of Sciences, said:

"I am so thrilled for Hye Kyun Timken! This award is an incredibly prestigious one; for context, let me say that the 2001 winner was our late Illinois colleague and Nobel Laureate Paul C. Lauterbur, who won for his development of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).  It is very hard for scientists in industry to be recognized for ground-breaking work that has societal benefit; congratulations to Hye Kyun for her work on environmentally responsible catalysis and fuel processing."

Established by E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, the NAS Award for Chemistry in Service to Society is awarded biennially for contributions to chemistry, either in fundamental science or its application, that clearly satisfy a societal need. The award is given in alternate years to chemists working in industry and to those in academia, government, and nonprofit organizations. The award is presented with a $20,000 prize.