Theodor Agapie Wins Presidential Early Career Award

Theodor Agapie, assistant professor of chemistry at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), is a 2014 recipient of a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). Agapie will receive the award from President Barack Obama at a ceremony in the nation's capital later this year.

The Presidential Early Career Awards are given each year as encouragement to scientists and engineers to help advance the nation's technological goals, solve major problems, and contribute to the American economy. PECASE is the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. Recipients are employed or funded by government departments and agencies such as the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, NASA, and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The NSF recognized Agapie for his early career contributions to the chemistry field, particularly in the areas of inorganic, organometallic, and bioinorganic chemistry. Inspired by chemistry occurring in the natural world, Agapie guides researchers in his laboratory at Caltech in the development and investigation of a variety of chemical processes that promise to provide benefits in fields including energy, materials, and health.

The Agapie group has designed ways to synthesize inorganic clusters that model the active sites of catalysts for oxygen-oxygen bond cleavage and formation, transformations relevant to renewable energy conversion and artificial photosynthesis. In particular, they have made molecular models of the complicated metal species responsible for oxygen evolution in plants. Their studies have provided a better understanding of the photosynthetic mechanism and have offered potential strategies for the development of better catalysts. Other projects in the Agapie group focus on fundamental studies of carbon-oxygen bond activation relevant to biomass conversion, the design of catalysts for the synthesis of advanced materials, and transformations of small molecules such carbon dioxide and hydrogen relevant to sustainable technologies.

"I am honored to have been selected to receive a Presidential Early Career Award," says Agapie. "I am delighted to see that the research done by my group at Caltech is appreciated by the NSF and President Obama."

Agapie, a native of Romania, received his bachelor's degree from MIT in 2001 and his PhD from Caltech in 2007. He has been an assistant professor at Caltech since early 2009. Since joining Caltech's faculty, Agapie has been named a Cottrell Scholar, a Searle Scholar, and a Sloan Research Fellow. He is a recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, and he has received the Award in Pure Chemistry from the American Chemical Society.

Written by Brian Bell