By Sally Harris
Spectrum Volume 21 Issue 14 - December 3, 1998
Paul A. Deck, assistant professor of chemistry, has received a $50,000 Cottrell Scholar Award to be applied to his research and classroom programs.
Offered by Research Corporation, the Tucson-based foundation for the advancement of science, the awards are given to younger university faculty members to enable them to pursue original research and teaching ideas and "to help re-establish collegiality in an age of increasing specialization," according to Research Corporation. Thirteen scientists at major universities in nine states received the awards.
Deck's Cottrell Scholarship was based on a proposal that included research and instructional thrusts. The research attempts to understand better how the chemistry of catalyst molecules changes when the molecules are bonded to complex support materials such as silica. "Similar silica-supported catalysts are used to make plastics like polyethylene," Deck said, "but the intimate details of their structure and function remain poorly understood. Our unique approach is to vary the extent to which catalyst molecules can `flop around' on the surface by attaching them using different combinations of well-defined molecular tethers."
Cottrell scholars must have innovative teaching as well as research plans for review. The educational aspect of Deck's award follows up on a plan Deck initiated under a Center for Excellence in University Teaching (CEUT) Summer Faculty Fellowship. Deck is developing a writing-intensive non-technical course for chemists that addresses career planning and development, scientific and professional ethics, and some of the financial and legal aspects of the chemical business, all from highly practical viewpoints. The pilot version of this course is running this semester under CHEM 4024.
A panel of scientists drawn from the academic community makes final recommendations for Cottrell Scholars Awards, which are open only to faculty members in the third year of a first tenure-track appointment.
Research Corporation was established by scientist, inventor, and philanthropist Frederick Gardner Cottrell, assisted by Charles Doolittle Walcott, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. The missions of the organization are to provide means for scholarly research and experimentation and to make inventions more available and effective in the useful arts.