Chemist Brooks Pate Named Macarthur Fellow
23, 2001-- The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur
Foundation has named Brooks Pate, a University of Virginia professor
of chemistry, one of 23 recipients of this year's MacArthur Fellowships.
He will receive $500,000 over five years of "no-strings-attached"
announcement of the MacArthur Fellows offers an opportunity to focus
on the importance of the creative individual in society," said Jonathan
Fanton, president of the foundation. "Whether working alone or within
an organization, these are people who provide the imagination and
fresh ideas that can improve people's lives and bring about movement
on important issues."
is no application or interview process for the MacArthur Fellowship.
Notification comes in the form of a phone call from the foundation.
"It is the first and only call we make to them, and it can be life-changing,"
says Daniel Socolow, the program's director.
36, is a physical chemist who is using lasers to redefine scientists'
understanding of molecular structure. He says a new chemistry is
being born, where chemists will be able to take over the structure
of molecules by manipulating their atoms. "Our work is showing that
the models of molecule structure of the past 40 years need to be
rethought. The work has implications for many areas of chemistry,
including efficient methods to make specialty molecules like pharmaceuticals
that minimize chemical waste."
plans to continue to teach and to use the award to develop more
specialized equipment for his studies and for salary support and
fellowships for his graduate students.
love working in the classroom as well as in the lab," Pate says,
"and it was a wonderful surprise for me and for my students to win
this fellowship. We have worked very hard in this lab to produce
important and novel findings and this award confirms that our work
is being noticed."
probes molecules spectroscope (a laser instrument that measures
molecules) to tease out their basic reactive properties. Although
spectroscopy is a relatively mature methodology, Pate blasted through
technical and conceptual hurdles previously thought insurmountable
to reveal new insights into chemical reactions of excited molecules.
team is finding that molecules do not exist in the seemingly fixed
form previously believed. It now appears that the atoms are in a
constant state of flux at any given moment, which may mean that
chemists will be able to make alterations in their structure, possibly
resulting in customized molecules for a variety of purposes.
results represent important steps toward a better understanding
of high-energy chemistry, but much progress remains to be made.
By revitalizing this branch of physical chemistry, Pate's research
brings us closer to realizing the long-anticipated promise of laser
technology for unprecedented control of chemical reactions.
received a B.S. in 1987 from U.Va. and a Ph.D. in 1992 from Princeton
University. He was a National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow
at the National Institute for Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg,
Md. before joining U.Va.'s Department of Chemistry in 1993. Since
then, he has received the Camille and Henry Dreyfus New Faculty
Award (1993), a National Science Foundation CAREER Award (1996),
the Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award (1998), and the Coblentz
Award (1999) for outstanding young molecular spectroscopists.
important underpinning of the MacArthur program is confidence that
the fellows are in the best position to decide how to make the most
effective use of their fellowship awards. The foundation neither
requires nor expects specific projects from the fellows, nor does
it ask for reports on how the money is used.
list of nominators for the Fellows Program, numbering several hundred
over the course of a year, continually changes. These nominators,
who serve anonymously, are chosen for their ability to identify
people who demonstrate exceptional creativity in their work. A 12-member
selection committee, whose members also serve anonymously, makes
recommendations to the foundation's board of directors. While there
are no quotas or limits, typically between 20 and 30 fellows are
selected annually. Including today's group, a total of 611 fellows
have been named since the program began in 1981. They have ranged
in age from 18 to 82.
former U.Va. faculty members have held MacArthur Fellowships. The
Pulitzer Prize-winning fiction writer James Alan McPherson was a
member of the English faculty in 1981 when he received a MacArthur
fellowship. The noted philosopher Richard Rorty held a MacArthur
when he joined the faculty in 1983.
Fariss Samarrai, (434) 924-3778