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Chemist Yates Wins Gerhard Ertl Lecturer Award for Surface Science and Catalysis

John T. Yates Jr., a chemistry professor in the University of Virginia’s College of Arts & Sciences and an Edgar G. Shannon Fellow, has been named the Gerhard Ertl Lecture Award winner for 2013. The prestigious chemistry award, given by the Fritz-Haber-Institut der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft in Berlin, is named after Ertl, a Nobel Prize-winning surface chemistry professor emeritus at the Fritz-Haber-Institut.

Yates is a world-renowned physical and surface chemist and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He came to U.Va. in 2007 after a distinguished career at the University of Pittsburgh and at the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology).

The Ertl Award is conferred annually on eminent scientists in the field of surface science and heterogeneous catalysis. It includes an award of 3,000 euros (about $4,000) and the recipient gives a lecture in Berlin. The award is supported by BSAF, a prominent international chemical company; the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society; and the UNICAT (Unifying Concepts in Catalysis) Cluster of Excellence, a joint initiative of three Berlin universities.

Surface chemistry involves studies of the behavior of molecules at the surfaces of materials, and has a range of applications, including nanoelectronics and photonics. Catalysts are used for a broad variety of purposes, including the conversion of petroleum and renewable resources into fuel, as well as the production of plastics, fertilizers, paints, solvents, pharmaceuticals and more.

Yates is one of the world’s leading investigators in the field of surface chemistry and physics, including both the structure and spectroscopy of atoms and molecules on surfaces, the dynamics of surface processes and the development of new methods for research in surface chemistry.

In addition to his work in the chemistry department, Yates also is a member of the research team in the University’s Center for Chemistry of the Universe, and he collaborates regularly with researchers in the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

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