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MU Professor Has Special Edition of Scholarly Journal Dedicated to his Lifelong Efforts in Chemistry

Jerry Atwood says student successes are the real measure of his own success

Aug. 27, 2008

Story Contact:  Jennnifer Faddis, (573) 882-6217,

COLUMBIA, Mo. - 'Happy Birthday, and oh by the way, an entire scholarly journal has been dedicated to your lifelong efforts in the chemical sciences.' This is the surprise message received by University of Missouri Curators' Professor Jerry Atwood. The front cover of the New Journal of Chemistry proclaims "Issue Dedicated to Professor Jerry Atwood."

"If you are a rock star, then you want to be on the cover of Rolling Stone," Atwood said. "If you are a scientist, you want your work on the covers of learned journals. In 2007, my work was on the cover of five journals. I never thought that could happen."

According to New Journal of Chemistry Associate Editor Jonathan W. Steed, Atwood's career spans more than 700 scientific publications, which have been cited a staggering 23,000 times.

Atwood said the dedicated journal is special to him because the issue contained contributions from colleagues around the world. Nine papers were from former students who worked under Atwood during their post-doctoral period. The students now work or teach in France, Australia, the United Kingdom and South Africa. One of the papers was from his eldest son, a chemistry professor at the University of Kentucky.

"An academic from India once said that after 20 years in a field of endeavor, you do not ask a professor what he is doing, but rather what his students are doing," Atwood said. "Knowledge goes on long after the careers of individuals have come and gone. My major contribution is mentoring and developing young scientists, not just my accomplishments in chemistry."

Atwood's accomplishments are significant. In 1969, he first discovered liquid clathrates. This work provided major underpinnings for what is now called 'green' or 'environmentally friendly' chemistry. In 1997, he discovered a way to make nanocapsules. This work, based on design principles of Plato and Archimedes, will help with targeted drug delivery. In 2002, Atwood discovered materials useful for storing hydrogen and methane. This created the potential for storing alternative fuels. To make this possible, hydrogen-based vehicles need three things, according to Atwood, one of which is a safe way to store the fuel efficiently.

"The students that I've been able to work with are the real joy," Atwood said. "Interaction with students keeps me going and sustains my research effort."

The journal is published by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) in Great Britain – the RSC is the largest organization in Europe for advancing the chemical sciences - and the Centre National de la Recherché Scientifique in France. Atwood is co-editor-in-chief of the journal, but had no idea the editorial board had decided to honor him with this dedication. They surprised him at an international conference with a 65th birthday party where the special dedication was unveiled.