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George Olah

Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and Donald P. and Katherine B. Loker Chair in Organic Chemistry
Founding Director

Contact Information
Phone: (213) 740-5976
Office: LHI 203

Faculty Profile on Departmental Website


Ph.D. Organic Chemistry, Technical University Budapest, Hungary, 1/1949

Academic Appointment, Affiliation, and Employment History

Founding Director, Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute, University of Southern California, 2010-  
Distinguished Professor of School of Engineering, University of Southern California, 2008-  
Director, Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute, University of Southern California, 01/01/1991-  
Distinguished Professor and Donald P. and Katherine B. Loker Chair in Organic Chemistry, University of Southern California, 01/01/1980-  
Professor of Chemistry and Scientific Director, Hydrocarbon Research Institute, University of Southern California, 01/01/1977-  
C.F. Mabery Distinguished Professor of Research in Chemistry, Case Western Reserve University, 01/01/1967-01/01/1977  
Chairman of combined Departments of Chemistry, Case Institute of Technology; Case Western Reserve University, 01/01/1967-01/01/1969  
Professor and Chairman, Department of Chemistry, Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH, 01/01/1965-01/01/1967  
Research Scientist, Dow Chemical Company, 01/01/1957-01/01/1964  
Head of Department of Organic Chemistry and Associate Scientific Director, Central Research Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary, 01/01/1954-01/01/1956  
Assistant Professor of Organic Chemistry, Technical University, Budapest, Hungary, 01/01/1949-01/01/1954  

Description of Research

Summary Statement of Research Interests

One of the world's preeminent scholars of hydrocarbon chemistry, Professor George Olah received the 1994 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for groundbreaking work on superacids and his observations of carbocations, a fleeting chemical species long theorized to exist but never confirmed. Olah devised a way to keep the transient carbocations around long enough to study their properties. What he found has revolutionized understanding of organic chemistry, leading to new discoveries, new fields of research and countless applications. Professor Olah researches a wide range of synthetic and mechanistic organic chemistry with emphasis on hydrocarbon chemistry.  He is currently investigating electrophilic (protic) solvation superelectrophilic activation, which allows new applications in alkylation, acylation and many other reactions.  Olah has made significant research contributions to the practical development of improved lead-free gasoline, cleaner high-octane gas and other promising nonpolluting fuels, as well as many chemical processes now used in pharmaceutical and industrial chemistry. His research has also led to the development of a new kind of fuel cell, called the direct liquid methanol fuel cell, that is a highly efficient and convenient source of electricity. His most recent research centers on the conversion of two greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane, into useful fuels and products, investigations driven by his long-standing interest in energy and environmental issues. To find new solutions to these pressing issues, Olah is working to develop new, cleaner and renewable fuels, based on methanol, to replace diminishing oil reserves while reducing levels of greenhouse gases. (The Methanol Economy Concept).

Affiliations with Research Centers, Labs, and Other Institutions

Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute of USC, Director,

Honors and Awards

Szechenyi Grand Prize of Hungary, 2011-  
National Academy Member, National Academy of Engineering, 2009-  
USC Distinguished Professor, School of Engineering, 2008-  
Honorary Citizen of the City of Budapest, Hungary, 2007-  
Honorary Member of the German Chemical Society, 2007-  
Honorary D.Sc, University of Sopron, Hungary, 2006-  
Hungarian Order of Pro Merit, 2006-  
USC Endowed Chair, Donald P. and Katherine B. Loker Chair in Organic Chemistry, 1983-  
USC Distinguished Professor, Department of Chemistry, 1980-  
Semmelweis Budapest Award, 2013  
The 2013 Eric and Sheila Samson Prime Minister's Prize for Innovation in Alternative Fuels for Transportation, 2013  
Cotton Medal, American Chemical Society, 1996  
Nobel Prize Recipients, Chemistry (unshared), 1994  
Honorary D.Sc., University of Munich, 1990  
Honorary Member, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, 1990  
Honorary D.Sc., Technical University of Budapest, 1989  
Member, European Academy of Arts, Sciences & Humanities, 1989  
Guggenheim Fellowship Recipient, 1988  
Honorary D.Sc. Honoris Causa, University of Durham, UK, 1988  
USC Associates Award For Creativity In Research And Scholarship, 1985  
Alexander von Humbolt Fellowship Recipient, Alexander von Humbolt-Stiftung Award for Senior U.S. Scientists, 1979  
Centenary Lectureship, British Chemical Society, 1977  
National Academy Member, Member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, 1976  
Fellow of the Society for the Promotion of Science, Japan, 1974  
Guggenheim Fellowship Recipient, Fellow of the J.S. Guggenheim Foundation, 1972  
Recipient of National or International Prize in Discipline, Morley Medal, 1970  
Leo Hendrick Baekeland Award, 1967  
Recipient of National or International Prize in Discipline, American Chemical Society Award in Petroleum Chemistry, 1964  
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