Campus News

UGA’s Gregory H. Robinson honored with Humboldt Research Award

Gregory H. Robinson

Award marks second consecutive year a UGA chemist has earned the international accolade

Athens, Ga. – Gregory H. Robinson, Franklin Professor and Distinguished Research Professor of Chemistry at the University of Georgia, is one of a select group of international academics awarded a 2012 Humboldt Research Award from Germany’s Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

The award is valued at 60,000 euro (approximately $80,000), and Robinson is the second UGA chemist to receive the award in as many years.

“I have known for many years that UGA is home to some of the best faculty in the world,” said UGA President Michael F. Adams. “The fact that Dr. Henry Schaefer won the Humboldt Award last year and now Professor Robinson is this year’s recipient demonstrates that fact to the world. I am very proud of both of them and wish Dr. Robinson well in his research with colleagues in Germany.”

Robinson has been invited to undertake prolonged periods of collaboration with colleagues in Germany, and he plans to work with chemists at the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg and the Technical University of Berlin.

The award, which is presented to up to 100 scientists worldwide annually, is granted in recognition of a researcher’s entire achievements to date and is presented to academics whose fundamental discoveries, new theories or insights have had a significant impact on their own discipline and who are expected to continue producing cutting-edge achievements in the future.

Robinson is internationally known for his work synthesizing chemical compounds that other scientists had dismissed as impossible. In a landmark 1995 paper, he demonstrated that metals can display electronic behavior that was previously only thought possible with carbon-based ring systems such as benzene. These chemical compounds, known as aromatics, are particularly stable, and Robinson’s innovations have the potential to improve the performance of semiconductors and electronics. His research team subsequently installed a triple bond between two gallium atoms and later prepared a compound containing an iron-gallium triple bond. In another landmark paper published in 2008, Robinson’s team stabilized a new form, or allotrope, of silicon and developed a technique to stabilize highly reactive molecules that otherwise would be fleeting.

“Dr. Robinson’s research continues to receive international acclaim, and his accomplishments underscore how research in the basic sciences creates new knowledge with far-reaching applications,” said Hugh Ruppersburg, interim dean of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “The fact that Dr. Henry Schaefer earned a Humboldt Research Award last year is further indication of the esteem with which our faculty members are held.”

Robinson earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Jacksonville State University and his doctorate from the University of Alabama. Before joining the UGA faculty in 1995, he was a professor of chemistry at Clemson University in South Carolina.

The Humboldt Foundation dates back to 1860 and is named for the researcher and explorer who helped lay the foundation for fields such as physical geography, climatology, ecology and oceanography while also sponsoring other scholars and talents. The Humboldt Foundation enables more than 2,000 researchers from all over the world to spend time researching in Germany and maintains a network of more than 25,000 Humboldtians from all disciplines in over 130 countries worldwide-including 48 Nobel Laureates.

The award marks the second time that Robinson has been honored by the Humboldt Foundation. In 1994, he was named a Humboldt-Stiftung Research Fellow and collaborated with researchers at the Technical University of Berlin. Other major awards Robinson has received include the National Science Foundation’s Award for Special Creativity and the American Chemical Society’s Charles H. Herty Medal for outstanding contributions and service to chemistry. In 2010, he earned the Lamar Dodd Creative Research Award, the highest physical science research award at the University of Georgia.

“Greg has won several awards for his innovative research in recent years, and he brings great credit to our department and university,” Jonathan Amster, professor and head of the Franklin College’s chemistry department. “He joins professors Fritz Schaefer, Mike Duncan and Rich Dluhy as recent Humboldt Fellows from UGA’s department of chemistry.”