The 2020 Harrison Howe Awardee

Current Award RecipientWilfred A. van der Donk
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Richard E. Heckert Professor of Chemistry
Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Professor, Institute for Genomic Biology

The Rochester Local Section of the American Chemical Society is excited to announce that Professor Wilfred A. van der Donk is the 2020 Harrison Howe Award winner. Professor van der Donk currently holds the Richard E. Heckert Endowed Chair in Chemistry at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Professor van der Donk has established a broad research program at the interface of chemistry and biology, combining techniques from synthetic organic chemistry, molecular biology and biochemistry.  He is a pioneer in the field of the biosynthesis and mechanistic enzymology of lanthipeptides, which are naturally occurring cyclic peptides with antimicrobial activity. More broadly, his laboratory has discovered ribosomally synthesized and post-translationally modified peptide (RiPP) natural products and new methods in genome mining to identify natural products with important biochemical functions directly from genomic sequences.  His work in the field of chemical biology is an excellent example of how chemistry can contribute to society, a founding principle of the Harrison Howe Award.

van der Donk received his B.Sc and M.Sc degrees in 1989 from Leiden University in The Netherlands before moving to Rice University in Houston, Texas, where he received his Ph.D. in organic chemistry in 1994 working with Professor Kevin Burgess.  From 1994-1997, he did postdoctoral work with Professor JoAnne Stubbe at Massachusetts Institute of Technology before starting his independent career at the University of Illinois.

Due to delays from the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 award was presented at NERM2022, the North East Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society, held in Rochester on October 2-5, 2022.

The Harrison Howe Award is dedicated to the memory of Harrison E. Howe, 1881-1942, a cofounder of the ACS Rochester Section and a well-known chemist, editor, and author. The award was established to recognize a scientist who has made outstanding contributions to chemistry or closely related fields and who shows great potential for further achievement. Recent winners of the award include Laura Kiessling (2005), Daniel Nocera (2008), Carolyn Bertozzi (2009), and Joseph DeSimone (2011), X. Sunney Xie (2012), David MacMilan (2015) and Chad Mirkin (2018).

For more information about the Harrison Howe Award lecture and event, and to register to present a poster, please contact Lynda McGarry, Development Administrator, at the University of Rochester.