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UVM Chemist Wins Alfred P. Sloan Award


Rory Waterman, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Inorganic Chemistry

University of Vermont chemist Rory Waterman was selected for a research award by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, one of the nation's most prestigious prizes for outstanding early career scientists.

Waterman's experiments in catalytic bond formation of elements, like finding new ways to create bonds in phosphorous, have been at the forefront of an important area of basic chemistry research. His work promises to be of great value in fields ranging from drug delivery to LED lights.

The Sloan Research Fellowships have been awarded since 1955, initially in only three scientific fields: physics, chemistry, and mathematics. Since then, 38 Sloan Research Fellows have gone on to win the Nobel Prize in their fields; and 14 have received the Fields Medal, the top honor in mathematics.

The two-year, $50,000 award will begin in May and allow "us to do some really innovative, wacky stuff," Waterman said. "There is this debate within the chemistry community about staying on the known path versus going off the path to look for new approaches."

Waterman is optimistic that the new funding will allow him and his students to go into uncharted territory to "discover things we couldn't achieve through our regular funding," he said, including using a technique called "alpha elimination" for generating a group of useful chemicals called "low valence fragments."

The last UVM researchers to win the Sloan award were Martin Kuehne and Hack Bushweller in 1965 and 1971, respectively, both in chemistry.

"The Sloan Research Fellowships support the work of exceptional young researchers early in their academic careers, and often at pivotal stages in their work," said Paul L. Joskow, president of the Sloan Foundation, making the announcement today.

Waterman, an assistant professor of chemistry at UVM, is among this year's 118 award winners from a small group of leading research universities including Harvard, MIT, Stanford, and Princeton.

The Sloan awards are now granted in chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer science, economics, neuroscience, and evolutionary molecular biology.

Once chosen, Sloan Research Fellows are free to pursue whatever lines of inquiry are of most interest to them, and they are permitted to employ their funds in a wide variety of ways to further their research aims.

"There are no parameters yet on the kind of research we want to do," said Waterman. "It's very exciting."

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is a philanthropic, not-for-profit, grant-making institution, based in New York City. Established in 1934 by Alfred Pritchard Sloan Jr., then-president and chief executive officer of the General Motors Corporation, the foundation makes grants in support of original research and education in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and economic performance. For additional information about the foundation visit www.sloan.org.

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