Decorated Colorado State University Professor Wins International Chemistry Award

Note to Reporters: A photo of Tomislav Rovis is available with the news release at

Colorado State University Professor Tomislav Rovis has been honored with the International Society for Heterocyclic Chemistry Katritzky Award for his contributions to the chemistry field.

“Tom, like all of our CSU chemistry faculty, is committed to conducting innovative research that advances learning and is based in new discoveries that will help the world around us,” said Chemistry Department Chair Ellen Fisher. “It is always exciting when our professors receive recognition for their work.”

The Heterocyclic Chemistry Katriztky Award is an international award given to individuals who have made advancements in this field of chemistry, which largely revolves around the synthesis of ring compounds containing two or more types of atoms. This particular class of compounds has numerous applications including many pharmaceuticals, pesticides, herbicides, and biological molecules such as DNA. Rovis was nominated by Robert Williams, CSU University Distinguished Professor in chemistry.

“Tom’s contributions to the field of heterocyclic chemistry rank him among the world’s leaders in his age group,” said Williams. “His work transcends the typical approaches that synthetic organic chemists have used to prepare heterocyclic substances. Among the younger generation, few have made such a contribution to heterocycles as catalysts as well as new approaches to heterocycles as the products of the reactions he has devised.”

In his research, Rovis uses small organic molecules to create tools or catalysts that make more elaborate molecules for pharmaceuticals that could lead to treatments for cancer and other diseases. This is a critical piece of research and development for pharmaceutical companies who must create and test thousands of molecules to fashion new drugs.

In December, the American Association for the Advancement of Science honored Rovis with the distinction of Fellow “for distinguished contributions to the field of chemical synthesis, particularly for the development of nucleophilic carbene catalysis and asymmetric umpolung.”

Rovis’ recent discovery – creating an artificial enzyme made of metal and organic matter – could speed up the drug discovery process. In October, Rovis and his fifth-year doctoral student Todd Hyster, in collaboration with Professor Thomas R. Ward and Livia Knörr at the University of Basel, published a paper in Science about that research. The new enzyme could allow scientists to build many more complicated molecules necessary for creating drugs and cut months of work into days.

U.S. News and World Report has named the graduate program in chemistry at Colorado State University one of the top 50 programs in the country. The ranking was included in the 2011 Edition of America’s Best Graduate Schools.

The chemistry department is a Program of Research and Scholarly Excellence at Colorado State. Research Ph.D. programs are available in analytical, inorganic, organic, physical, and materials chemistry as well as chemistry education. Interdisciplinary programs of study that cross traditional boundaries are encouraged and many faculty members have joint appointments in engineering and life sciences departments across campus. The department’s total grant expenditures exceed $7 million annually.