Science + Technology

UCLA Chemist Richard Kaner Awarded Gold Shield Faculty Prize for Excellence in Teaching, Research and Service


Richard B. Kaner, a UCLA professor of chemistry andbiochemistry whose internationally renowned research in materials chemistry hasled to several patents, has been awarded the 2002–04 Gold Shield Faculty Prizefor Academic Excellence.

The honor is presented to a UCLA faculty member every secondyear in recognition of "extraordinary accomplishment" in research, outstandingteaching and distinguished university service.

Kaner's colleagues and students praise him as anexceptionally dedicated teacher, whether teaching large freshman courses oradvanced graduate seminars, and an innovative, highly productive scientist whohas made significant, lasting contributions to UCLA and to chemistry.

William Gelbart, professor and chair of UCLA's Department ofChemistry and Biochemistry, describes Kaner as an "outstanding teacher, mentor,scholar, and a remarkable person."

In his research in inorganic and materials chemistry, Kanerfocuses on the design of new high-temperature materials and their synthesis bynew chemical methods. He discovered a spectacular new method to makehigh-temperature ceramics in a few seconds that previously took days or evenweeks. His research group has produced more than 100 materials using thismethod, and he has obtained three patents for the process, with two morepending. He has published his results in the most prestigious scientificjournals.

A separate research project has led to his development ofmembranes for separating gases such as oxygen and nitrogen from air, a processof tremendous industrial importance. The membranes are composed of conductingplastics, a class of materials that was unknown 25 years ago. Kaner and a UCLAchemistry colleague hold two patents on some of the most selectiveoxygen/nitrogen membranes that have ever been produced.

"Ric's studies have led us to a better understanding of themechanism of electrical conduction in these novel materials," said Gelbart, whoadded that Kaner's current research in this area "should lead to purerpharmaceuticals and therefore to more effective medication therapies." In athird area of research, Kaner has synthesized novel superconductors based on anew molecular form of pure carbon — soccerball-like molecules known asfullerenes, or "buckyballs."

He has authored more than 100 research publications sincejoining UCLA's faculty in 1987.

Kaner, who is also known for integrating research andteaching, has had 45 UCLA undergraduates participate in research in hislaboratory, along with 21 students who have completed their Ph.D.s under hissupervision, eight who are currently conducting their thesis research, sevenpostdoctoral associates and seven visiting scientists.

Discussing Kaner's teaching skills, Gelbart said "hisclassroom presentations are consummately prepared" and praised the"inexhaustible energy and attention he devotes" to his students, and his "highstandard of intellectual activity and personal integrity."

Kaner incorporates new research into his lectures as soon asit is published. He also shows how important chemistry is in our daily lives.

"I was bored when I took freshman chemistry," Kanerrecalled. "When many people teach chemistry, they don't show the relevance ithas to our lives. I plan to teach a new Gold Shield faculty course on howmaterials affect us: the materials that make light bulbs, TVs and computerchips work along with the chemistry of synthetic gems."

Kaner received his undergraduate degree in chemistry fromBrown University. The highlight of his undergraduate education was the fouryears he spent conducting research in the chemistry lab of Aaron Wold. Kanerstill keeps the first crystals he grew in his first quarter in Wold's lab.

He did his graduate work in inorganic chemistry at theUniversity of Pennsylvania, where he earned his doctorate in 1984. He was apostdoctoral fellow at UC Berkeley before joining UCLA's faculty as anassistant professor in 1987. He was promoted to associate professor in 1991 andprofessor in 1993.

He is the recipient of numerous awards, including John SimonGuggenheim, Alfred P. Sloan, and David and Lucile Packard fellowships, as wellas premier awards from the American Chemical Society, a National ScienceFoundation Presidential Young Investigator Award, and UCLA's Harriet andCharles Luckman Distinguished Teaching Award, among many others.

Kaner's research is funded primarily by the National ScienceFoundation and the Office of Naval Research.

He has also made substantial contributions in the area ofuniversity service, serving as vice chair for education in chemistry andbiochemistry for three-and-a-half years, as an undergraduate advisor for fiveyears, chairing a committee for three years that oversees recruiting andevaluating chemistry and biochemistry graduate students, chairing a task forceto improve teaching of freshman and sophomore physical science, and serving onseveral university committees on teaching and research.

In addition, he is a husband and the father of threechildren, ages nine, five and two.

The faculty prize, which includes a cash award of $30,000 inunrestricted research funding, was established by Gold Shield in 1986 to markthe group's 50th anniversary.

Gold Shield is an honorary service and philanthropicorganization for women graduates of UCLA whose members are chosen based on theiruniversity service and outstanding professional and community achievements. Theorganization serves UCLA by providing financial support for not only the GoldShield Faculty Prize, but also student scholarships, the Oral History Program,and a new Gold Shield Faculty Prize Course in the College of Letters andScience. In addition, Gold Shield members participate actively in many areas ofuniversity life.



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