Carnegie Mellon University

Kris Matyjaszewski

October 18, 2016

Matyjaszewski Wins 2017 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Chemistry

Matyjaszewski shares the prize with Kyoto University’s Mitsuo Sawamoto

By Jocelyn Duffy

The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia announced that Krzysztof Matyjaszewski, the J.C. Warner Professor of Natural Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University, and Mitsuo Sawamoto, professor of polymer chemistry at the University of Kyoto, have won its 2017 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Chemistry. They will receive the award on May 4, 2017 during a ceremony at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.

The Franklin Institute Awards have recognized and encouraged preeminent accomplishments in science and technology on an international level since the Institute was founded in 1824. Past laureates include Thomas Edison, Marie Curie, Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates. Several members of the Carnegie Mellon community have received a Franklin Institute Award, including chemistry alumna Stephanie Kwolek, who invented Kevlar; Mellon Institute researcher Paul Flory, who won the Nobel Prize for his achievements in polymer chemistry; and CMU President Subra Suresh.

Matyjaszewski, a member of the chemistry faculty in CMU’s Mellon College of Science, and Sawamoto were cited “for their seminal contributions to the development of a new polymerization process involving metal catalysts. This powerful process affords unprecedented control of polymer composition and architecture, making possible new materials including improved composites, coatings, dispersants, and biomedical polymers.”

Matyjaszewski is best known for developing copper-mediated atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP), a precise method for making macromolecules that has revolutionized the field of polymer synthesis. ATRP uses a specialized catalyst to start and stop the polymerization reaction, allowing researchers to construct polymers in a piece-by-piece fashion and precisely control their size, architecture and function. Since first publishing his finding on ATRP in 1995, Matyjaszewski was worked to refine the process making it more efficient and environmentally friendly. His work has been cited more than 80,000 times, making him one of the most cited chemists in the world.

Independently, Sawamoto developed a similar controlled radical polymerization process that uses a different type of catalyst and activator.

Born in Poland, Matyjaszewski received his doctorate from the Polish Academy of Sciences in 1976 and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Florida in 1977. From 1978 until 1984 he was a research associate at the Polish Academy of Sciences. After spending a year at the University of Paris, Matyjaszewski came to Carnegie Mellon in 1985 and was appointed the J.C. Warner Professor of the Natural Sciences in 1998. While at Carnegie Mellon, Matyjaszewski founded the Center for Macromolecular Engineering, served as head of the Department of Chemistry from 1994 to 1998, and was named a University Professor in 2004. The title of University Professor is the highest distinction a faculty member can achieve at CMU.

Matyjaszewski has won numerous other awards, including the 2015 Dreyfus Prize in the Chemical Sciences, 2013 AkzoNobel North America Science Award, 2011 Wolf Prize in Chemistry and the 2009 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award. He is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors and the American Chemical Society, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering.