Stephen J. Lippard, who is widely acknowledged as one of the founders of the field of bioinorganic chemistry, is this year’s recipient of MIT’s James R. Killian Jr. Faculty Achievement Award.
Established in 1971 to honor MIT’s 10th president, the Killian Award recognizes extraordinary professional achievements by an MIT faculty member.
In announcing this year’s award at the May 15 faculty meeting, the award committee noted that Lippard’s “groundbreaking work has pushed back the frontiers of inorganic chemistry, while simultaneously paving the way for improvements in human health and the conquering of disease.”
Lippard, the Arthur Amos Noyes Professor of Chemistry, has spent his career studying the role of inorganic molecules, especially metal ions and their complexes, in critical processes of biological systems. He has made pioneering contributions in understanding the mechanism of the cancer drug cisplatin and in designing new variants to combat drug resistance and side effects.
His research achievements include the preparation of synthetic models for metalloproteins; structural and mechanistic studies of iron-containing bacterial monooxygenases including soluble methane monooxygenase; and the invention of probes to elucidate the roles of mobile zinc and nitric oxide in biological signaling and disease.
“It’s humbling,” Lippard said of receiving the award. “Many of my MIT heroes are on the list of previous recipients, and it’s really an honor to join them.”
“I am indebted to my wonderful group of students, both graduate and undergraduate, as well as many talented postdoctoral associates who have worked in my lab over the years to produce the research results that are recognized by this award,” he added. “I also thank my wife Judy for her love and support.”
Lippard earned his PhD in chemistry from MIT in 1965 and spent a year at the Institute as a postdoc before joining the faculty of Columbia University in 1966. He returned to MIT as a professor in 1983 and served as the head of the Department of Chemistry from 1995 to 2005. He has published more than 800 scientific papers and recorded nearly 30 patents. With Jeremy Berg, he published “Principles of Bioinorganic Chemistry,” which is regarded as the definitive text in the field.
The award citation noted that in addition to his exceptional work as a scientist, “Professor Lippard has excelled as a teacher and mentor, fostering the training of a generation of leading young scientists in the field of bioinorganic chemistry.” He has trained more than 100 PhD students and an even greater number of postdocs.
“After years of great science, scholarship, and service, Professor Lippard still projects a wonderful youthful enthusiasm when discussing new research results, or when teaching freshman chemistry to new MIT undergraduates,” according to the award citation, read at the May 15 faculty meeting by Michel Goemans, chair of the Killian Award selection committee and a professor of mathematics.
Lippard’s many other awards include the Linus Pauling Medal, the UK Royal Society of Chemistry Centenary Medal, the Ronald Breslow Award for Achievement in Biomimetic Chemistry, the Alfred Bader Award in Bioinorganic or Bioorganic Chemistry, and the National Medal of Science. He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the National Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.