Acclaimed chemistry professor wins two major awards

Kirby Kemper

One of Florida State University’s most influential researchers, whose pioneering work in chemical analysis places him in an elite group of the world’s top chemists, is set to receive two major, highly competitive chemistry awards.

Alan G. Marshall, the Robert O. Lawton Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Florida State and director of the Ion Cyclotron Resonance Program at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, will receive the 2012 William H. Nichols Medal, given by the New York Section of the American Chemical Society (ACS), and the 2012 Pittsburgh Analytical Chemistry Award, given by the Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh (SACP).

“I am naturally delighted by these awards, for different reasons,” Marshall said. “The Nichols Medal is more senior and spans all of the subdisciplines of chemistry, so it’s a special treat to join prior awardees such as Nobelists Linus Pauling (chemical bond theory), Melvin Calvin (photosynthesis), Robert Woodward (organic synthesis) and Paul Flory (polymers), among others. The Pittsburgh Analytical Chemistry Award is more specialized, so the fun part there is that I know many of the prior awardees personally.”

Kirby Kemper, Florida State’s vice president for Research, praised Marshall for pioneering ion cyclotron resonance, an incredibly precise analytical chemistry technique that has and will continue to benefit the people of Florida and the world.

“These awards just reaffirm, as have his previous prestigious awards, that his peers place an incredibly high value on his work,” Kemper said. “Alan Marshall’s research has led to the training of numerous undergraduate and graduate students as well as postdoctoral researchers, which has extended his influence throughout the whole ion cyclotron resonance community.

Alan Marshall
Alan Marshall

Marshall is widely recognized as having revolutionized the field of chemical analysis. He co-invented and continues to develop Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance (FT-ICR) mass spectrometry, a powerful analytical procedure capable of resolving and identifying thousands of different chemical components in complex mixtures ranging from petroleum to biological fluids. Since its invention, more than 775 FT-ICR instruments, with a replacement value of approximately $450 million, have been installed in laboratories worldwide.

The William H. Nichols Medal will be given in recognition of Marshall’s outstanding achievements in the chemical sciences, especially in the area of FT-ICR mass spectroscopy. The Nichols Medal, established in 1903, is one of the oldest and most prestigious awards of the New York Section of the ACS.  Sixteen previous Nichols Medalists have gone on to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Marshall will receive the award during the annual William H. Nichols Distinguished Symposium in White Plains, N.Y., in March 2012.

The Pittsburgh Analytical Chemistry Award will be given to recognize Marshall’s significant contributions to the field of analytical chemistry. He will receive that award during Pittcon, the world’s largest conference and exposition on laboratory science, in Orlando, Fla., in March 2012. He will become only the fourth scientist to receive the three main awards of the SACP. The other two are the SACP Maurice F. Hasler Award, which Marshall won in 1997, and the Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh Spectroscopy Award, which he won in 2002.

“It is gratifying that both awards recognize research conducted during my 18 years at Florida State, made possible by dozens of clever and accomplished colleagues, ranging from undergraduate and graduate students to staff and faculty members here and elsewhere,” Marshall said.

In recent years, Marshall’s research group has received a great deal of attention for its development of “petroleomics,” an entirely new branch of chemistry that seeks to predict the properties and behavior of petroleum and its products. Using FT-ICR mass spectrometry, his team has been able to simultaneously separate and identify thousands of separate chemical constituents within a single crude oil sample. In so doing, it has compiled the largest database of petroleum compounds in the world — priceless information for some of the world’s biggest companies.

In addition to his groundbreaking research, Marshall also has authored or co-authored more than 525 refereed journal papers and has mentored more than 125 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

In the past few years, Marshall’s work in the field of chemical analysis has been recognized with several highly notable distinctions. In 2009, he became a member of the first class of fellows of the American Chemical Society — the only person in Florida to be so named. That same year, he received the New Frontiers in Hydrocarbons Award, sponsored by Italian energy company Eni, for his research group’s development of “petroleomics,” an entirely new branch of chemistry that seeks to predict the properties and behavior of petroleum and its products. In 2008, he received the Ralph and Helen Oesper Award from the prominent Cincinnati Section of the American Chemical Society for his co-invention of FT-ICR. (Eight past Oesper awardees have gone on to win the Nobel Prize.) And in 2007, he received the Chemical Pioneer Award from the American Institute of Chemists for his “outstanding contributions advancing the science of chemistry or impacting the chemical industry or profession.”