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Prakash to be honored as American Chemical Society fellow

The USC scientist has advanced methanol chemistry and helped develop viable alternatives to fossil fuels

G.K. Surya Prakash
G.K. Surya Prakash, director of the USC Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute (Photo/Peter Zhaoyu Zhou)

G.K. Surya Prakash PhD ’78, holder of the George A. and Judith A. Olah Nobel Laureate Chair in Hydrocarbon Chemistry, has been named a fellow of the American Chemical Society.

Prakash, who has significantly advanced methanol chemistry and has helped the world develop viable alternatives to fossil fuels, among other groundbreaking research, is among 99 newly elected ACS fellows. The 2014 class will be honored at a special ceremony during the ACS national meeting on Aug. 11.

In 2013, Olah and Prakash received the first-ever $1 million prize from the State of Israel for their innovative research on alternative fuels.

“I am honored and humbled that my peers have given me this recognition,” said Prakash, professor of chemistry and director of the USC Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

The lifelong designation recognizes ACS members for their excellence in scientific leadership and for their exceptional volunteer service to the ACS community. With more than 161,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and the premier professional home for chemists, chemical engineers and related professions worldwide.

National recognition in his field

Focusing on superacid, hydrocarbon, synthetic organic and organofluorine chemistry, Prakash has been active in the ACS community for many years. He has served as chair and program vice-chair of the fluorine chemistry division. His work includes organizing a number of national and international symposia, conference fundraising and lecturing in universities as well as high schools.

Prakash has been recognized by ACS in the past. He is the recipient of two highly coveted national awards: the 2004 ACS National Award in Fluorine Chemistry and the 2006 ACS National Award in Hydrocarbon Chemistry. He also received the 2006 Richard C. Tolman Award from the Southern California section of ACS for his scientific contributions to Southern California.

He has published more than 700 peer-reviewed scientific publications and holds 40 patents. He sits on the editorial boards of a number of chemical journals and has also co-authored or edited 11 books.

Prakash arrived at USC in 1977 as a doctoral student of George Olah, a Distinguished Professor of Chemistry who received a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1994. Prakash helped to establish the USC Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute, which he now directs. Prakash obtained his doctorate in physical organic chemistry at USC Dornsife in 1978 and joined the faculty in 1981.

Prakash and Olah have worked together for more than 20 years to develop the science to produce an alternative fuel called methanol that can replace fossil fuels.

In 2013, Olah and Prakash received the first $1 million prize from the State of Israel for their innovative research on alternative fuels. The Eric and Sheila Samson Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation in Alternative Fuels for Transportation recognized the professors’ alternative fuel research as part of an initiative to reduce its dependence on foreign oil.

Prakash and his team at USC Dornsife, including Olah, have also developed a way to turn the ozone-destroying greenhouse gas fluoroform — a harmful byproduct of Teflon — into reagents for producing pharmaceuticals.

ACS immediate past-President Marinda Li Wu said it is exciting to recognize Prakash and other fellows for their outstanding contributions and service to chemistry and to society.

“ACS fellows over the years have come from academia, industry, government labs and small business,” Wu said. “Congratulations to all who have achieved this distinction and helped advance the chemistry enterprise and ACS.”

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Prakash to be honored as American Chemical Society fellow

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