On January 10th the 2nd Akira Suzuki Awards Ceremony was streamed from the Akira Suzuki Hall in the Frontier Research for Applied Sciences building on the Hokkaido University campus.
The Akira Suzuki Awards were established in 2021 in commemoration of Professor Akira Suzuki being awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and to celebrate his 90th birthday. They consist of two awards, the Akira Suzuki award for outstanding contributions to chemical reaction design in the field of experimental chemistry, and the ICReDD Award for outstanding contributions to chemical reaction design in the fields of computational/theoretical chemistry or information science.
After a brief explanation of the awards, the Akira Suzuki Awards Organizing Committee chair Professor Masaya Sawamura of ICReDD presented the 2nd Akira Suzuki Award to John F. Hartwig, Henry Rapoport Professor of Chemistry at the University of California-Berkeley.
“It’s a particular honor to receive this prize in the first two years along with Steve Buchwald who together with me has done so much to work on the development of cross coupling chemistry” said Professor Hartwig upon receiving the award.
Professor Hartwig mentioned how he took introductory organic chemistry in 1983, shortly after the initial papers of Akira Suzuki were published, but before cross coupling was taught to undergraduates.
“We were taught that one could not conduct substitution chemistry at an sp2 hybridized site,” recalled Professor Hartwig. “And so it’s this cross coupling chemistry and the simplicity of running a Suzuki cross coupling reaction that has really struck me throughout my career because it allows us to do the kind of chemistry that one cannot do using the tools of the basic organic chemistry that we taught undergraduates at that time.”
Professor Hartwig acknowledged the support of his current and former lab members, his mentors and his family. He also highlighted the contributions of postdocs from Japan who have been in his group and he reminisced about the important connections and relationships he has had with Japan.
“Thinking back on all the great relationships I’ve had with my co-workers from Japan and all the fantastic trips I’ve had…it was 1998 when I was last in Hokkaido for the Nozaki Symposium. It was one of the most memorable trips of my career,” commented Professor Hartwig.
The ceremony continued with Vice Chair of the Akira Suzuki Awards Organizing Committee Professor Tetsuya Taketsugu of ICReDD presenting the 2nd ICReDD Award to Kendall N. Houk, Distinguished Research Professor at University of California-Los Angeles.
“It’s my great honor to have received the ICReDD Award from an institution that I respect so much,” said Professor Houk after being conferred the award. “Throughout my career I have tried to improve the use of computations in organic chemistry, and I’d say nowadays ICReDD is perhaps the most prominent institution in the world for pushing back the frontiers of computational chemistry.”
Professor Houk then spoke about how far along things have come in the field of computational chemistry during his career.
“Computers have increased in speed by 100 billion fold since my graduate days, and there has been the development of extraordinary programs by groups such as Pople and others, but now the Maeda group,” described Professor Houk. “And of course by combining this with informatics, as is being done at ICReDD, it is possible to do things far beyond the expectations of even a decade ago.”
Professor Houk finished by thanking all those who have contributed to the field of computational chemistry and his group members in particular.
“I’d like to acknowledge, of course, my group. There have been hundreds of outstanding graduate students and postdocs who have contributed to the work I have done,” concluded Professor Houk.