Chemist Matthew S. Platz of Columbus, Ohio, will be honored August 28 by the worlds largest scientific society for inventing ways to follow chemical reactions step by step, yielding insights as far-reaching as how to protect blood supplies. He will receive the 2001 Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award from the American Chemical Society at its national meeting in Chicago.
My research is designed to uncover the precise sequence of steps, or mechanism, by which organic chemicals undergo conversion, said Platz, who is Melvin S. Newman professor of chemistry at Ohio State University. Organic chemicals include pharmaceuticals, proteins, gasoline and all other carbon-containing compounds, he explained.
Chemical reactions proceed not by simply mutating from one form to another, but more often via intermediate molecules that may exist for only billionths of a second. Controlling the chemistry of these ephemeral species determines whether the reaction succeeds or fails, said Platz.
Platz and his research team use high-tech techniques such as laser flashes to freeze-frame reactive intermediates. They have also invented methods such as pyridine ylide, which allows them to see previously invisible intermediates, he said.
Studying reactions so intimately reaps unexpected rewards. My former student Ray Goodrich and I are working on methods to kill pathogenic particles in blood products before they can be transfused, said the chemist.
We are studying compounds which bind pathogenic nucleic acid [the building blocks of genetic material], absorb visible light, generate reactive intermediates which damage the nucleic acid and inactivate the pathogen, he said. As plasma protein and red cells contain no nucleic acid, these blood products are spared.
When asked what first attracted him to science, Platz recalled the race to the moon. I dreamed of discovering new rocket fuels which would propel great starships to exotic places around the univers
Contact: Rodney Pearson
American Chemical Society