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American Chemical Society Honors Inorganic Chemist Peter Ford

December 10, 2012

Peter C. Ford (PhD 1966, Chemistry), professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UC Santa Barbara, was recently designated as the winner of the 2013 American Chemical Society National Award for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry.

Ford joined the faculty at UCSB after completing a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellowship with Nobel laureate Henry Taube at Stanford University. In the years since, more than 60 students have earned their PhD degrees while working in his research group. His own dissertation adviser was organic chemist Kenneth B. Wiberg. “He was a wonderful mentor for whom I have the highest regard,” Ford says.

Ford's lab studies catalysis, the photochemistry and photophysics of transition metal complexes, and the chemistry of nitric oxide and other small molecule bioregulators. “While these topics sound rather diverse, the common theme is our interest in reaction mechanisms and in applications of quantitative techniques to investigate these systems,” he says.

Catalysis research in Ford’s lab is focused on developing sustainable methods for converting biomass waste materials such as woodchips into liquid fuels. The successful use of such renewable resources will lower the carbon dioxide burden on the environment.

His photochemical studies involve the application of nanomaterials such as quantum dots as antennas to collect light and to transfer energy to metal complexes that release bioactive agents, a process crucial to the design and implementation of photochemically-activated drugs.

The lab also studies the reactions of small molecule bioregulators such as nitric oxide. Nitric oxide, an inorganic compound, has important and diverse roles in mammalian biology, including cytotoxic immune response to pathogen invasion and intracellular signaling in the cardiovascular and nervous systems.

Ford is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was a Senior Fulbright Fellow. Among his many honors are a Dreyfus Foundation Teacher-Scholar Award in 1972, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Senior U.S. Scientist Award in 1992, the Richard C. Tolman Medal of the ACS in 1993, and the Inter-American Photochemical Society Award in Photochemistry in 2008.