The pioneering work of Sarah Reisman ’01 represents the future of chemistry.
That’s according to the Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA), which recently named Reisman the 2019 recipient of the Cottrell Frontiers in Research Excellence and Discovery (FRED) Award.
Reisman, a professor of chemistry in the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology, was recognized with the $250,000 award for her proposed project experimenting with an emerging approach to using artificial intelligence known as “input design machine learning.” Her efforts may lead to the development of new chemical reactions that can be catalyzed by metals, particularly nickel.
The potential impact of Reisman’s project could be transformative in the treatment of disease, and help chemists synthesize complex biological compounds that would otherwise be very difficult to obtain for clinical use.
“Cottrell FRED awards have a dual purpose,” said Dan Linzer, president and CEO of the RCSA. “While they reward creative Cottrell Scholars with vibrant programs of research, they point to the future by providing funds to initiate high-risk and high-reward projects that will potentially transform a research area, he added.”
Reisman’s previous research developing nickel-catalyzed reactions that are highly specific have been successful, but have also proved extremely time and labor intensive because they typically involve repeated rounds of testing of all the conditions for each reaction. The goal of this new project is to develop a computational artificial intelligence tool that significantly accelerates the rate of discovery and optimization of these catalysts.
In 2012, Reisman was named an RCSA Cottrell Scholar, a program that celebrates supports the country’s top early career teachers and scholars in chemistry, physics and astronomy by providing significant discretionary awards for research.
In addition to RCSA’s FRED and Cottrell Scholar awards, Reisman has received a number of other prestigious recognitions for her research, including the American Chemical Society Cope Scholar Award, the Tetrahedron Young Investigator award, the Eli Lilly Grantee award, and the 2019 Margaret Faul Women in Chemistry Award. She has contributed her expertise to the National Institutes of Health and to the American Chemical Society as an Associate Editor for its publication, Organic Letters.
“FRED Award recipients are highly creative Cottrell Scholars whose ideas and potential solutions address major current challenges in their areas of research expertise,” said Silvia Ronco, the RCSA’s senior program director. “By developing unique perspectives for solving key research challenges, awardees create new approaches that accelerate basic science research for the benefit of society. Sarah Reisman certainly fits that description, and we are proud to name her the 2019 FRED Award winner.”
Reisman was recently a guest on President Katherine Bergeron's podcast, Think.Do.Lead., which features inspiring minds from a variety of fields, from advocates who know how to put their ideas into action and innovators who are working to find inventive solutions to age old problems to educators who are shaping a new generation of thinkers, doers and leaders. To learn more about Reisman and her research, listen to the episode.