Emory chemist garners international honor for lifetime achievement

Emory Report | May 24, 2017

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Huw Davies, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Chemistry, received the Humboldt Research Award for his work on organic synthesis, particularly C-H functionalization, which could lead to a paradigm shift in how pharmaceuticals and other chemicals are made. Emory Photo/Video

Huw Davies, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Chemistry, has received the prestigious Humboldt Research Award in recognition of lifetime achievements in research.

The award is given by the Germany-based Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to scientists whose discoveries or insights have had a significant impact on their field of study, and who are expected to continue producing cutting-edge achievements in the future. 

The Humboldt Research Award also seeks to foster international scientific collaboration; recipients are invited to carry out research projects of their own choice in cooperation with colleagues in Germany. The award comes with approximately $66,000.

Davies’ research focuses on organic synthesis, particularly C-H functionalization, which explores the conversion of the very common carbon-hydrogen bond into useful functional groups, leading to new synthetic methods with broad applications to industry and medicine.

Davies currently is the director of the National Science Foundation-funded Center for Selective C-H Functionalization (CCHF) at Emory. The CCHF fosters collaboration among Emory scientists and 22 other C-H functionalization research groups in 15 universities across the United States, in addition to working with similar centers around the globe.   

Research in C-H functionalization is considered to have the potential to be a paradigm shift on how pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals and fine chemicals for material science are made, in part by making the process simpler, faster and greener,” says Davies. “Consequently, there is world-wide interest in C-H functionalization with large-scale centers in the United States, Europe, Japan and Korea.”

Davies is currently in Germany, working with chemistry professor Oliver Reiser from the University of Regensburg. He plans to use the award over the next three years to spend two months each summer at a different host university in Germany to build on several existing research collaborations.