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USC Chemists Named AAAS Fellows

USC Chemists Named AAAS Fellows
Charles McKenna and G.K. Surya Prakash will be honored for advancing socially distinguished applications by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

By Carl Marziali

Two chemistry professors in the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences have been named fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Charles E. McKenna and G.K. Surya Prakash will be among 376 researchers honored at the Fellows Forum of the 2006 AAAS Annual Meeting in St. Louis, Mo., in February.

Fellows are selected for “their efforts toward advancing science applications that are deemed scientifically or socially distinguished,” according to the AAAS.

McKenna, who holds a joint appointment in the USC School of Pharmacy, was cited for “important studies in bioorganic chemistry, particularly creation of innovative chemical probes of nitrogenase, highly useful and biologically important fluorinated phosphate analogs and novel antiviral prodrugs.”

McKenna’s chemical probes have helped to clarify the mechanism by which a common enzyme converts atmospheric nitrogen to ammonia, a vital nutrient for plants. His research in organophosphorous chemistry led to a new class of antiviral agents.

Prakash, an endowed professor and researcher in the Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute, was cited for “outstanding contributions to organofluorine, carbocation, superacid and hydrocarbon chemistry and for pioneering work on the revolutionary liquid-feed, direct oxidation methanol fuel-cell technology.”

Prakash’s team has developed a fuel cell that converts methanol to electrical energy at very high efficiency and potentially without adding to the world’s supply of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

His research on superacids in collaboration with USC colleague and Nobel laureate George Olah yielded, among other discoveries, a method for converting natural gas to gasoline.

The tradition of AAAS fellows began in 1874. Members are considered for the rank of fellow if nominated by the steering group of their respective sections, by three fellows or by the association’s chief executive officer. The AAAS Council votes on the final list.

The AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the prestigious journal Science. Founded in 1848, the society includes more than 250 affiliated societies and academies of science serving 10 million individuals.