Eric Jacobsen receives 2024 Welch Award

Eric Jacobsen

Photo by Jon Chase

3 min read

Eric Jacobsen, the Sheldon Emory Professor of Organic Chemistry, will receive the 2024 Robert A. Welch Award in Chemistry for his research into speeding up chemical reactions and understanding how reactions work. The prestigious award honors the value of chemical research contributions and promote basic chemical research.

“Professor Jacobsen is a trailblazer in the field of chemistry, and his work with small molecule catalysts has been revolutionary for understanding how they work,” said Fred Brazelton, chair of the Welch Foundation Board of Directors. “The Welch Award aims to recognize the top minds in the field of chemistry and Eric is a natural pick. We are excited to honor his contributions to the field and look forward to adding his name to our list of distinguished recipients.”

Recognized as a leading figure in organic chemistry, Jacobsen has made groundbreaking contributions to the field of catalysis and organic synthesis. Jacobsen has significantly advanced the field of asymmetric catalysis. His innovative work has allowed chemists to design and create more efficient and specific molecules. His efforts in catalyst design have fundamentally influenced synthetic organic chemistry, making substantial impacts on both academic research and practical applications, such as the synthesis of FDA-approved drugs.

“Professor Jacobsen’s work has had profound impacts on how we understand small molecular catalysts and their role in asymmetrical catalysis, which in turn has changed our lives as chemists and human beings alike,” said Catherine J. Murphy, chair of the Welch Foundation Scientific Advisory Board. “A leader in the space, Eric’s work has not only set the standard for evolving small molecular asymmetric catalysis, but his work also impacts our day-to-day lives through applications such as the use of his reactions in large scale, late-stage synthesis on numerous FDA approved drugs. Eric has also provided an important and supportive learning environment for chemists over his long tenure as a professor, encouraging and fostering minds as they train. He is the embodiment of this award, and we at the Welch Foundation are excited to include him as a Welch Award recipient.”

Eric Jacobsen joined Harvard University as full professor in 1993, was named the Sheldon Emory Professor of Organic Chemistry in 2001 and served as Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology from 2010 through 2015. Before joining Harvard, Jacobsen served on the faculty of the University of Illinois from 1988 to 1993. He earned his B.S. degree at NYU, his Ph.D. at UC Berkeley and carried out postdoctoral studies at MIT.