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And the Special Creativity Award Goes to ...

UCR Chemist Receives National Science Foundation’s Special Creativity Award

Christopher Reed, discoverer of the world’s “strongest yet gentlest” acid, honored for significant research accomplishments

(February 5, 2007)

Christopher Reed is a distinguished professor of chemistry at UCR. Image credit: Pat O'Brien. (For photo of Christopher Reed scroll to end of release.)Enlarge

Christopher Reed is a distinguished professor of chemistry at UCR. Image credit: Pat O'Brien. (For photo of Christopher Reed scroll to end of release.)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Christopher Reed, a distinguished professor of chemistry at UC Riverside, has received the National Science Foundation’s Special Creativity Award for his research accomplishments and their broad impact on both organic and inorganic chemistry.

Because of the award, Reed’s current three-year project, “Synthetic Coordination Chemistry” will receive support for two more years. Funding will increase by $351,000 to a total of $820,000 over the total five-year period, with no request needed from Reed for a renewal of the grant. Typically, grants supporting chemistry research are given for three years, after which the principal investigator formally must request a renewal by submitting a proposal.

According to the National Science Foundation, “the objective of such extensions is to offer the most creative investigators an extended opportunity to attack adventurous, ‘high-risk’ opportunities in the same general research area, but not necessarily covered by the original/current proposal.” The extensions, initiated by the National Science Foundation program officer, are based on progress during the first two years of a three-year grant.

“I relish doing research in a ‘carte blanche’ atmosphere,” said Reed, who has been funded continuously by the National Science Foundation for 32 years, with his research proposals in the last 24 years winning the top peer group rating. “The news came just as I was getting ready to write my renewal proposal. I am delighted that people in Washington are willing to support fundamental research with such long term funding — a requirement for doing more challenging work.”

At UCR, Reed specializes in making molecules that haven’t been made before. He also works on stabilizing molecules previously considered to be unstable. Credited with the discovery of new “strong-yet-gentle” acids called carborane acids, Reed’s biggest contributions have been in the field of superacids — acids stronger than 100 percent sulfuric acid.

His Synthetic Coordination Project aims to get carborane acids to react with the inert gas xenon — a reaction that has yet to be observed — and with hydrocarbons. “Hydrocarbons are becoming precious and we need better ways to use them,” Reed said.

“Chris’s research has pushed the boundaries of both inorganic and organic chemistry well beyond what had been thought to be possible,” said James P. Collman, the George A. and Hilda M. Daubert Professor of Chemistry at Stanford University. “He has designed and employed large, unreactive negative ions, ‘anions,’ to synthesize, isolate, and structurally characterize a wide array of remarkable chemicals which were thought to exist, but never before had been ‘put in a bottle.’ Chris used these anions to discover the strongest hydrocarbon acids.”

The recipient of numerous honors, including an Alfred P. Sloan fellowship, a Camille and Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award and the Tolman Award from the Southern California section of the American Chemical Society, Reed is the author or co-author of more than 190 scientific articles. His research also has been recognized by the Simon Guggenheim and Alexander von Humboldt foundations.

Born in New Zealand, Reed began research in 1968 at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, where he earned his doctorate in chemistry. After postdoctoral studies at Stanford University, he began his independent research career at the University of Southern California in 1973. In 1998 he joined UCR to help build its Department of Chemistry into a nationally ranked research department. Reed is the director of UCR’s Center for S and P Block Chemistry, established in 2005.
Christopher Reed is a distinguished professor of chemistry at UCR. Photo credit: Emily Undem.Enlarge

Christopher Reed is a distinguished professor of chemistry at UCR. Photo credit: Emily Undem.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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