Ozkan joins distinguished ranks of ACS Olah Award recipients

Posted: September 14, 2023

Distinguished University Professor Umit S. Ozkan has been chosen to receive the American Chemical Society's George A. Olah Award in Hydrocarbon or Petroleum Chemistry.


The purpose of the Olah Award is to recognize, encourage, and stimulate outstanding research achievements in hydrocarbon or petroleum chemistry. Chair of the William G. Lowrie Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Ozkan received the honor in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the literature of the field of hydrocarbon chemistry and for her dedicated service to the scientific community.

She is an internationally recognized leader in thermal-catalytic and electro-catalytic manipulations of hydrocarbons and is the second woman to receive the award, created in 1948 and now supported by an endowed fund established by the Morris S. Smith Foundation and the Dow Chemical Company.

An award ceremony honoring Ozkan and other ACS award recipients will take place on Tuesday, March 19, 2024, in conjunction with the Spring 2024 ACS meeting in New Orleans. In addition, a symposium honoring Professor Ozkan will take place during the Fall (August 2024) ACS Meeting in Denver.

Ozkan’s early work focused on selective oxidation of hydrocarbons, including partial oxidation of C4 hydrocarbons to maleic anhydride, C5 hydrocarbons to phtalic anhydride, isobutane oxidation to methacrylic acid. She provided insights into the role of lattice oxygen versus gas phase oxygen through her studies that combined in-situ Raman spectroscopy with isotopic labeling. Later work included selective oxidation of methane to formaldehyde and oxidative coupling of methane. Hers was one of the first groups to demonstrate the use of steady-state isotopic transient kinetic analysis (SSITKA) technique for studying oxygen insertion mechanisms in selective oxidation reactions.

Ozkan also worked on the oxidative dehydrogenation of lower alkanes. Especially noteworthy are her studies on alkali-doped molybdenum oxide catalysts on Si:Ti mixed oxide supports prepared by a one-pot sol-gel coprecipitation technique and combining 1H-29Si CP-MAS NMR, ESR, and DRIFTS data, which showed a correlation between the propane ODH activity and the electronic structure of the MoOx domains on the surface.

Her work on steam reforming of lower alkanes is highly cited for the insights it provided to the deactivation characteristics of lanthanide-promoted Ni catalysts. In all of these studies, Ozkan has sought to establish structure-activity relationships for the catalytic systems and map the catalytic performance to the synthesis parameters and resulting properties.

Ozkan has a long publishing record in areas directly relevant to petroleum chemistry, including studies on hydrogenation/hydrogenolysis, catalytic hydrogen production, and environmental catalysis. She was one of the first catalysis researchers to bridge heterogeneous catalysis and electrocatalysis. In addition to her work on electrocatalyst development for PEM and solid oxide fuel cells, her group was the first to report on electrocatalytically-assisted oxidation reactions.

As a testament to Professor Ozkan’s impact, she has received many honors and awards, including the North American Catalysis Society Burwell Lectureship Award (2023), the ACS Henry H. Storch Award (2017), ACS Energy and Fuels Distinguished Researcher Award (2012), John van Geuns Lectureship Award at the Van't Hoff Institute at the University of Amsterdam (2010), Fulbright Senior Scholar Award (2007), and awards and fellowships from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), the Society of Women Engineers, Keck Foundation, National Science Foundation and Union Carbide. In 2013, Volume 56, issues 18-20 of Topics in Catalysis was dedicated in her honor, as well as a 2019 special volume of Catalysis Today.

Ozkan’s contributions to the field of catalysis are not limited to her research. She is an active leader in professional societies such as ACS, AICHE and the North American Chemical Society. Especially noteworthy are the leadership roles she held in the ACS Petroleum Chemistry Division (Secretary and also Division Chair), and for the Energy and Fuels Division (Councilor and Executive Committee member). 

She is a fellow of ACS, AICHE, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and serves on the editorial boards of eleven catalysis and chemistry journals.

Read more about Professor Ozkan and how she found her calling in chemical engineering.

by Wenda Williamson, Dept. of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Categories: AwardsFaculty