Carnegie Mellon University
April 30, 2021

Matyjaszewski Honored with Two Major Awards

By Ben Panko

Carnegie Mellon University chemist Krzysztof Matyjaszewski has received two major awards recognizing his contributions to the field of polymer chemistry — the 2020 William H. Nichols Medal and the 2020 Paul J. Flory Polymer Education Award.

The William H. Nichols Medal, recognizing "outstanding contributions in the field of chemistry," has been presented by the New York Local Section of the American Chemical Society (ACS) since 1903. The first award authorized by the ACS, it is named for chemist, businessman and ACS co-founder William H. Nichols.

The New York Local Section hosted a symposium in Matyjaszewski's honor this month, with his peers and proteges giving presentations on their work in chemistry. The event culminated in a lecture and speech from Matyjaszewski.

The Paul J. Flory Polymer Education Award has been presented by ACS' Division of Polymer Chemistry every two years since 1981 to recognize "outstanding achievements by an individual in promoting undergraduate or graduate polymer education." The award is named for the chemist Paul Flory, who won the 1974 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work related to the physical chemistry of polymers. From 1957 to 1961, Flory served as executive director of research at the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research, which later merged with the Carnegie Institute of Technology to form Carnegie Mellon University.

Matyjaszewski is world-renowned for discovering atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP), a polymer synthesis process that revolutionized the creation of macromolecules. Through ATRP, monomers can be linked together piece-by-piece to create polymer chains, allowing the precise creation of highly specialized materials.

Since his 1995 discovery of ATRP, Matyjaszewski has worked to improve and promote the technique to industry and academia and overseen the extension of its use to create "smart" materials with applications in the fields of medicine, construction, energy and more. Matyjaszewski has also been a mentor and educator to more than 200 undergraduate and graduate chemistry students since joining the faculty of Carnegie Mellon in 1985.

Matyjaszewski's numerous awards and honors include membership in the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Russian, Australian and Polish Academies of Sciences, the 2017 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Chemistry, the 2013 AkzoNobel North American Science Award and the 2011 Wolf Prize in Chemistry.