Neil Garg, professor and vice chair for education in the UCLA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, has been selected to receive the 2016 Thieme-IUPAC Prize, presented every two years at the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry's International Conference on Organic Synthesis. The award is given to an exceptional scientist under the age of 40 whose research has had a major impact in synthetic organic chemistry. Garg will receive the prize at the conference in Mumbai, India, this December.
In Garg’s award-winning research, his research group develops new chemical transformations that enable the synthesis of important organic molecules, such as pharmaceuticals and bioactive molecules found in nature that are often referred to as “natural products.” His laboratory develops synthetic strategies and methods to enable the synthesis of such molecules.
The recipient of numerous awards and honors for his research and teaching, he was selected as the 2015 Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching California Professor of the Year. The U.S. Professors of the Year program honors the most outstanding undergraduate instructors in the country, who are extraordinary teachers and positively influence the lives and careers of their students. He won the 2015 Gold Shield Faculty Prize, UCLA’s prestigious 2014 Eby Award for the Art of Teaching and UCLA’s 2012-2013 BruinWalk.com’s Professor of the Year.
In his teaching, he emphasizes the creativity and problem-solving that organic chemistry requires, and its relevance in students’ lives. Garg teaches an extremely popular organic chemistry course that is arguably UCLA’s most beloved class, and he has shared his teaching secrets with a wider audience in this 20-minute TEDxUCLA talk. Garg enlivens student learning with interactive online tutorials combining real-life examples of organic chemistry, human health and popular culture. One tutorial noted that the popular pain reliever Tylenol, taken by more than 100 million people annually, can cause liver damage if overused, a result of oxidation and change in functional groups. Another focused on chemical agents used in cosmetics, food additives and pharmaceuticals. Garg is now planning to expand these interactive online tutorials to students and educators worldwide.