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UCLA alumnus wins 2010 Nobel in chemistry


By Alison Hewitt

Published Oct 6, 2010 2:39 PM


UCLA alumnus Richard Heck was awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in chemistry. Photo provided by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences via the University of Delaware.

UCLA alumnus Richard Heck won the 2010 Nobel Prize in chemistry this morning, making him the sixth UCLA graduate to win a Nobel.

Heck developed a method to overcome the tricky process of joining carbon molecules, which in turn allows scientists to create any number of organic compounds. The process, known as the Heck reaction, is used in research worldwide, according to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the prize. Heck's discovery in the 1960s meant that medicines and many compounds normally found only in small quantities in nature could finally be replicated in large amounts.

Heck, 79, received his B.S. from UCLA in 1952 and his Ph.D. from UCLA in 1954, both in chemistry. He is now a professor emeritus at the University of Delaware. An American citizen, Heck shares the Nobel with Japanese researchers Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki — all of whom developed the winning method independently, said the Royal Swedish Academy.

The new Nobel laureates won for the development of palladium-catalyzed cross coupling, which uses atoms of the metal palladium to nudge reluctant carbon atoms together. The three will evenly split about $1.5 million in prize money.

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