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05/29/2014 13:37:37

Chemical Engineer Mark Davis Wins Prince of Asturias Award

Mark E. Davis, the Warren and Katharine Schlinger Professor of Chemical Engineering at Caltech, has been named one of three recipients of the 2014 Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research. Davis was recognized, along with Avelino Corma Canós of the Institute of Chemical Technology in Spain and Galen D. Stucky of UC Santa Barbara, for contributions to the development of microporous and mesoporous materials and various applications of these materials from the petrochemical industry to health care.

Microporous materials are characterized by pores that are less than 2 nanometers in diameter, while mesoporous materials have larger pores that can be up to 50 nanometers across.

Each year the Prince of Asturias Foundation selects awardees in eight categories to "encourage and promote the scientific, cultural, and humanistic values that form part of mankind's universal heritage." The foundation's citation for this year's awardees in the Technical and Scientific Research category says, in part, "The scientific and technical contributions of these three chemists have opened up very important lines of research that are on the frontiers of current knowledge, with direct applications in the reduction of pollutant emissions from vehicles and factories as well as in the processes of refining petroleum and in the chemical industry in general."

"It gives me great pleasure to receive the 2014 Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research with my esteemed colleagues Professor Corma and Stucky," says Davis. "It is gratifying to receive recognition for work on microporous and mesoporous solids, as these types of materials are the basis of significant technology that has greatly improved quality of life throughout the world."

"Mark's achievements in the development of new materials as selective catalysts and for applications in medicine have been impressive," says Jacqueline Barton, chair of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Caltech. "It is outstanding to see his contributions being recognized through this award."

Davis has worked on microporous crystalline oxides, called zeolites, and zeolite-like materials since the 1980s. These materials have pores that are at the same scale as the molecules with which they react, allowing them to serve as very selective catalysts. Although zeolites are notoriously difficult to synthesize in a prescribed way, Davis and his colleagues have developed techniques for controlling their synthesis with desired nanostructures and properties. One of his group's major successes was creating zeolites with pore sizes larger than one nanometer in diameter.

Davis earned his BS, MS, and PhD at the University of Kentucky in 1977, 1978, and 1981, respectively. He joined the Caltech faculty as a professor in 1991, was named Schlinger Professor in 1993, and served as executive officer for chemical engineering from 1999 to 2004. Since 2004, he has been a member of the Experimental Therapeutics Program at the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Davis sits on the editorial board of Molecular Therapy-Nucleic Acids, Drug Delivery and Translational Research, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, and Nucleic Acid Therapeutics, among other publications. He is a member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the American Chemical Society, and the American Association for Cancer Research. He also has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Academy of Sciences. Davis has won a number of awards previously, including the Presidential Young Investigator Award (1985), the Donald Breck Award from the International Zeolite Association (1989), the Alan T. Waterman Award from the National Science Foundation (1990), the Elmer Gaden Award from the American Chemical Society (2009), and the Gabor A. Somorjai Award for Creative Research in Catalysis (2014), among others.

Davis will receive the Prince Asturias Award from His Royal Highness The Prince of Asturias at an academic ceremony in October in Oviedo, Spain.

Written by Kimm Fesenmaier