WASHINGTON, Oct. 19, 2010 — Lost in the hoopla over the 2010 Nobel Prizes in Chemistry earlier this month was the fact that a small funding agency continued its track record of helping to jump-start careers of Nobel laureates. Two of the three new chemistry laureates had funding from that agency. Known as the American Chemical Society (ACS) Petroleum Research Fund (ACS PRF), it has done the same for 26 Nobel Laureates over the years.
ACS PRF provides grants that often play crucial roles in launching young scientists on their careers. It did so for Richard F. Heck, Ph.D., and Ei-ichi Negishi, Ph.D., who shared the 2010 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Akira Suzuki, Ph.D. Heck and Negishi each received three ACS PRF research grants that were relevant to the research for which they were honored with the Nobel Prize.
“The Petroleum Research Foundation awarded me several grants during my career for which I am very thankful,” said Heck, the Willis F. Harrington Professor Emeritus at the University of Delaware in Newark, Del. “They along with the National Science Foundation were my principal research supporters during my years at the University of Delaware. Many students benefitted from PRF support.”
Robert Grubbs, Ph.D., who shared the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for research on metathesis, a process that underpins manufacture of medicines, plastics, and other products, echoed that sentiment. “The PRF funding allowed me to start early work on the mechanism of metathesis in a very new area without a track record,” Grubbs said. “This funding opened the door for our subsequent metathesis research.”
Over the last half century, ACS PRF has had a similar impact on the careers of geologists, engineers and other scientists in the United States and abroad.
List of other Nobel laureates and their ACS PRF funding.
Among scientists, ACS PRF grants are known for launching careers. ACS PRF starter grants give many assistant professors their first opportunity to receive peer-reviewed funding. Other ACS PRF grants emphasize novel research directions, allowing worthwhile yet risky ideas to develop. ACS PRF awards also are flexible, going to any fundamental research project that may later lead to an impact on the petroleum field. Bolstered by such support, recipients often use an ACS PRF grant as seed money to launch a significant new line of research.
PRF’s origins date to 1944, when seven major oil companies who jointly owned Universal Oil Products donated stock to found PRF as a charitable scientific and educational trust. ACS was named as its administrator and got the authority to use income from the trust to support “advanced scientific education and fundamental research.” Over the years, PRF has distributed more than $546 million in nearly 17,000 grants. Those grants have supported fundamental research leading to new ways to make drugs, design better catalysts, find oil fields, predict earthquakes, refine crude oil, invent plastic products, safely process chemicals, and understand prehistoric plants and animals.
In 2001, the original PRF trust was dissolved and re-established as ACS PRF, an endowment managed by ACS, which has more than 161,000 members and is the world's largest scientific society.
ACS PRF continues to award an array of traditional grants open to all graduate and undergraduate faculties. For all ACS PRF grants, an advisory board of 31 leading scientists determines which grant proposals best meet funding criteria and promise the greatest impact. The grants supports fundamental research directly related to petroleum or fossil fuels at colleges, universities and other nonprofit institutions in the United States and other countries.