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University of Delaware excited for Nobel winner

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

A retired professor from the University of Delaware and two others will share this year’s Nobel Prize for chemistry. Organic chemist Richard Heck pioneered a process that is fundamental in the pharmaceutical and plastics industries today.

Klaus Theopold leads the Chemistry Department at the University of Delaware.

Theopold: If you look around in the world, pretty much everything, including you and I, is chemicals, most of them organic chemicals, so there’s just a tremendous need for making new kinds of materials, new kinds of chemicals. Think about the pharmaceutical industry, all drugs are essentially organic chemicals.

The Heck Reaction uses the metal palladium as a catalyst to bind molecules. Theopold says before Heck’s discovery carbon to carbon couplings were notoriously hard to make.

Theopold met Heck several years ago when the University of Delaware created a lecture series in Heck’s honor. Theopold says the 79-year-old is quiet and unassuming.

Theopold says chemistry students and faculty at the university are basking in a little bit of reflected glory after the Nobel announcement.

It is certainly true that the Heck Reaction is well known, you know, chemists sit together and speculate who’s going to be the next one and he is one that always comes up.

Heck now lives in the Philippines.

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