Chemistry Department Wins AgainGAMBIER, Ohio (December 5, 2007) Mo Hunsen's scholarly investment in his chemistry students has paid off with a $60,000 Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award.
Hunsen, an associate professor, will use the money from the unrestricted grant to help his student collaborators work on green-chemistry research and travel to national conferences to present their findings.
For the Department of Chemistry, the award completes a rare trifecta: Three faculty members have now won awards from the New York City-based Camille & Henry Dreyfus Foundation.
"Kenyon has a great facility and research environment for our students to get involved in research starting from their first year," Hunsen said "The chemistry department faculty are exemplary in integrating research and classroom learning, and I am proud to contribute to that effort."
Hunsen's award is based on his commitment to teaching, original scholarly research with undergraduates, and the promise of continued success. He was among seven national winners for 2007 and competed in a field that includes all institutions that offer a bachelor's or higher degree, but typically not a doctoral degree, in chemistry, chemical engineering, or biochemistry.
"The guy is a phenomenon," said James Keller, associate professor and department chair. "He's a role model for our young scientists. This is a big deal for both him and the department.
"This is one of the few awards, from my perspective, that really honors its title, which is the teacher/scholar."
Hunsen's award is distinguished from the foundation's $30,000 Faculty Start-up Awards won by assistant professors Simon Garcia, in 2006, and John Hofferberth, in 2005. Those are awarded to new faculty with outstanding potential.
A department with three Dreyfus award winners is "remarkable," said Scott Cummings, associate professor and department chair when Hunsen's nomination was submitted. "Mo's award is based on what he's been doing at Kenyon," Cummings said. "He's done some really noteworthy work."
What Hunsen, who joined the faculty in 2001, has been doing at Kenyon is research in green, or sustainable, chemistry, noted by the foundation more specifically as "Chemical, Enzymatic, and Enzychemical Catalysis for the Synthesis of Novel Glycosidase Inhibitors and Biodegradable Polymers."
Green chemistry refers to environmentally friendly chemicals and processes that reduce waste and energy use and produce safer products.
"My research focuses on investigating innovative ways of doing chemistry in an environmentally friendly way," Hunsen said. "This includes using carbohydrates, the most abundant organic natural resources, performing organic reactions in water instead of in organic solvents, developing novel ways of preparing drugs from natural products for the prevention and therapeutics of cancer, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases."
Hunsen measures his success by the success of his former students, including Barbara Morgan '04, a fourth-year graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania and the recent winner of a $24,000 fellowship award from the organic-chemistry division of the American Chemical Society, and David Long '07, a doctoral student at the California Institute of Technology and the winner of a Goldwater scholarship, a Udall scholarship, and a National Science Foundation fellowship.
"The problem that our graduates often have is not in getting admission to the best graduate programs in the nation, but in selecting from the multiple admissions they get," Hunsen said.