Carnegie Mellon University
February 07, 2020

Chemist and Advocate Geraldine Richmond Awarded Dickson Prize in Science

By Ben Panko

Carnegie Mellon University will award its Dickson Prize in Science to Geraldine Richmond, a chemist and advocate for women in science. Richmond is the Presidential Chair in Science and a professor of chemistry at the University of Oregon.

Richmond will deliver the Dickson Prize Lecture, "Surf, Sink or Swim: Understanding Environmentally Important Processes at Water Surfaces," and receive a medal and cash prize at 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 11, in the Cohon University Center's Rangos Ballroom. The event is free and open to the public, and a reception will follow.

Richmond's research focuses on the complex chemical interactions that happen at the surfaces and boundaries of liquids. Using laser spectrometry and theoretical computation models, her lab has worked to understand how surface water molecules behave when covered with a layer of oil, and how other substances spread on that surface. Among other areas, this behavior has important implications for cleaning oil spills and knowing how toxins can spread in the environment.

Her work had led to numerous scientific awards, including the National Medal of Science, the American Chemical Society's Priestley Medal and the Davisson–Germer Prize in Atomic or Surface Physics. Additionally, Richmond has served as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a science envoy for the U.S. State Department to the lower Mekong River countries, and has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences and appointed to the National Science Board.

Outside of her research, Richmond founded COACh, an organization seeking to increase participation and leadership by women in science. More than 20,000 women in the U.S. and developing countries have participated in COACh workshops that include training, career guidance and mentoring.

Richmond received a bachelor of science degree from Kansas State University and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley. She has been with the University of Oregon since 1985, and previously served as an assistant professor of chemistry at Bryn Mawr College.

The Dickson Prize in Science was established in 1969 by the late Pittsburgh physician Joseph Z. Dickson and his wife, Agnes Fisher Dickson. It is awarded annually to individuals in the United States who make outstanding contributions to science.