Rice chemist wins 'Nobel Prize of Cyprus'

Aug 21, 2014
This image depicts a number of biologically active molecules found in living nature that have been replicated in the laboratory of Rice University chemist K.C. Nicolaou, who will be awarded Cyprus' coveted Nemitsas Prize on Oct. 7. The background shows a photograph of Earth (public domain image created by NASA) and the universe (European Southern Observatory).

Rice University organic chemist K.C. Nicolaou has earned three prestigious international honors, including the Nemitsas Prize, the highest honor a Cypriot scientist can receive and one of the most prestigious scientific awards in the European Union.

The Nemitsas Award, which has been called the "Nobel Prize of Cyprus," will be awarded Oct. 7 in honor of Nicolaou's numerous achievements in the field of total synthesis, an area of organic chemistry that focuses on synthesizing nature's most intriguing and . Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades will present the award in a ceremony at the presidential palace in Nicosia.

Nicolaou will be only the fifth recipient of the , which also was won in 2012 by Kyriacos Athanasiou, Rice adjunct professor of bioengineering.

Nicolaou is Rice's Harry C. and Olga K. Wiess Chair of Chemistry and co-author of the illustrated book "Molecules That Changed the World." His research involves reproducing nature's most complex and has been cited more than 50,000 times. Nicolaou joined Rice's faculty at the BioScience Research Collaborative (BRC) in 2013 and is working to find new drugs to fight cancer.

In addition to the Nemitsas Award, Nicolaou was awarded the 2014 Einstein Professorship by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). The award aims to enhance science and technological collaboration through cooperation, exchange of ideas and training opportunities. He will participate in a five-city lecture tour in China next month, beginning Sept. 8 at the CAS Institute of Chemistry in Beijing, and his lab will host several visiting CAS researchers over the next 12 months.

In May, Nicolaou served as the Rolf-Sammet Foundation Visiting Professor at Goethe University in Germany. This honor, the university's oldest and most prestigious guest professorship, included a series of lectures, seminars and laboratory visits at both Goethe University and Sanofi Aventis in Frankfurt.

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