Chemistry awards honour excellence

Professor Les Field
Tuesday, 16 November, 2010
Bob Beale

Two outstanding researchers from the UNSW School of Chemistry have won national awards for excellence from the Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI).

The institute's most prestigious prize, the 2010 Leighton Memorial Medal, has been awarded to Professor Les Field for outstanding research, technology and national leadership in chemistry. Senior lecturer Dr Marcus Cole won the 2010 Organometallic Award, for contributions to the development of organometallic chemistry.

Professor Field is the UNSW Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) and a Professor of Chemistry. The RACI said in its awards booklet: "The Leighton Medal recognises eminent service to and leadership in chemistry in its broadest sense and Professor Field is the exemplar of these criteria having had a tangible, long-lasting impact in the field of chemistry in Australia.

"In the leadership arena, Professor Field’s insight and ability to create an environment that attracts good calibre individuals and encourages them to produce high-quality research has repeatedly come to the fore."

Professor Field gained his BSc and PhD qualifications in the field of organic chemistry and NMR spectroscopy at the University of Sydney. His postdoctoral studies were undertaken at the University of Southern California - in the area of superacid and carbocation chemistry with Professor George Olah - and at Oxford University, working in the field of penicillin biosynthesis with Professor Sir Jack Baldwin.

He returned to the University of Sydney in an academic position in 1982, becoming Head of the School of Chemistry from 1997 to 2001. Professor Field also served there as Associate Dean for research, Chair of the university Research Committee, Deputy Chair of the Academic Board and Acting Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research). He was the Deputy Director of the successful Cooperative Research Centre for Molecular Engineering and Technology from 1992 to 1998. He moved to UNSW in 2005 and is a Fellow of the RACI and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science.

Professor Field has received numerous awards during his career including: the RACI Rennie Medal (1982); the Royal Society of NSW Edgeworth Medal (1986); a DSc by thesis for “Studies in Organic Organometallic Chemistry” (1990); and the RACI Organic Chemistry Medal (1992).

He leads a research group focussed on his main areas of research  in organometallic chemistry, catalysis and NMR spectroscopy. He is the author of more than 170 scientific papers, four textbooks and a number of book chapters.

Dr Marcus Cole has significantly influenced the direction of contemporary metallo-organoamide chemistry and is widely regarded as a world expert in the application of ligand steric bulk to the kinetic stabilisation of unstable chemical functions.

Dr Cole’s research interests span synthetic, catalytic and medical applications of f-block and heavy main group metals, and N-heterocyclic carbene chemistry.

In 2009 he won a NSW Young Tall Poppy Award for his research and public addresses on hydride chemistry and uranium derived biomedical applications

Media contact:
Bob Beale 0411 705 435