Chemist Victor A. Snieckus of Kingston, Ontario, will be honored August 28 by the worlds largest scientific society for inventing more efficient and ecologically benign ways to create, among other things, a new painkiller, fungicide for wheat crops, conducting materials and other compounds. He will receive the 2001 Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award from the American Chemical Society at its national meeting in Chicago.
Snieckus, who holds the Bader chair in organic chemistry at Queens University, is only the third Canadian to win the award. He compared his research efforts to stacking Lego blocks in all variety of patterns and forms, with one big difference no one has pre-set which ones should click together, he said.
His specialty is making organometallic compounds, whose combination of carbon and metal atoms makes them reactive in unique ways. For example, researchers at the drug company Pharmacia Corp. use a Snieckus method to prepare celecoxib (Celebrex), an arthritis painkiller less likely than others to cause serious stomach problems. The chemists research team has also discovered a means to protect wheat crops against a destructive fungus, called Take-all.
When asked why he became a chemist, Snieckus described what he called exclamation points in my mind not only teachers and other role models in chemistry, but also experiences like the beautiful color of a high school experiment and an explosion in a friends backyard, very close to my face, after we thought that the nitroglycerin we had made was a dud, he remembered. Outside the laboratory, he enjoys hockey, jazz and the history of chemistry in reverse order as I get older, he said.