Professor Kimberly Hilton awarded the 2022 Helen M. Free Award for Public Outreach

WASHINGTON, Aug. 24, 2022 — The American Chemical Society (ACS) proudly announces Professor Kimberly Hilton as the 2022 recipient of the Helen M. Free Award for Public Outreach. The ACS Committee on Public Relations and Communications presents this award annually to an ACS member whose outstanding achievements have improved public recognition and appreciation for the contributions of chemistry.

Hilton, a chemistry professor at Florida SouthWestern State College, is also known to millions of fans around the world through her in-person and digital public outreach as Chemical Kim.

Of particular importance to her is inspiring a young audience, especially those who may not have equal access to scientific discovery as a result of long-term hospitalization, foster care, language barriers or physical or mental disabilities. Her goal is to spark their interest to learn, understand and appreciate chemistry.

Chemical Kim’s fascination with science and how things work began at a young age, but answers to her curiosity and inquiries were elusive. It wasn’t until high school chemistry that explanations of how matter behaves and why things work like they do became clear.

In the early 2000s, Chemical Kim took her enthusiasm to local airwaves by producing radio spots called “The Chemical Kim Science Minute” as well as an award-winning educational TV show called the “Chemical Kim Science Show.” Over the years, and with the advent of new technology, she has branched out beyond in-person events to YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and TikTok, generating thousands of followers and millions of viewers who enjoy her engaging presentations.

“I am honored to receive this amazing recognition from ACS,” Chemical Kim says. “I make science inclusive and accessible for everyone. I believe the more diversity we bring to science, the faster and greater we will see improvements to our lives and our environment.”

ACS President Angela K. Wilson, Ph.D., heralds Hilton’s work and says she provides an exemplary model for other chemistry professionals. “Professor Hilton is an amazing ambassador for science and chemistry. In her role as Chemical Kim, she has engaged with the public for over 20 years through in-person demonstrations, television and radio programs, videos and podcasts. She has reached millions, particularly children, inspiring in them scientific curiosity and inquiry.”

Chemical Kim holds a B.S. in chemistry and a secondary education certification from Michigan Technological University, where she was a featured alumnus in the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences in 2018. She holds a master's degree in chemistry from Central Michigan University, where she was the recipient of the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award. In 2011, she was the LGBTQ Pride co-chair in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and continues working to improve LGBTQ visibility in STEM education. She is featured on the website 500 Queer Scientists.

Established in 1995, the Helen M. Free Award is an ACS ChemLuminary Award that recognizes outstanding achievements in public outreach. Free, a former ACS president, initiated many programs and activities designed to improve public awareness of chemistry’s contributions to the quality of daily life. Free passed away in May 2021, but her contributions to chemistry and public outreach will live on through the thousands of people whose lives she touched and the awardees continuing her work.

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Kimberly Hilton is dressed in a white lab coat with the name "Chemical Kim" embroidered above the chest pocket
Kimberly Hilton, a.k.a. “Chemical Kim”
Credit: Courtesy of Chemical Kim