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William H. Nichols Distinguished Symposium,
Medal Award Presentation & Dinner
April 13, 2018
115 Years: 
1903 - 2018
Prof. Rolison Click to enlarge.
Debra R. Rolison, Ph.D.


Debra R. Rolison, PhD

U.S. Naval Research Laboratory
Crowne Plaza Hotel
White Plains, NY

[ Dr. Rolison's Bio ]
[ Read the History of the Nichols Award ]
[ Summary of Previous Medalists]


“The Future fo Energy Science...Without Chemists? Unachievable!”




2018 Nichols Medalist

Dr. Debra R. Rolison

Advanced Materials Section

U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

1:00 p.m.           Welcome


Professor Joseph M. Serafin,   2018 Chair, ACS New York Section, St. John's University


1:05 p.m.           Opening of the Distinguished Symposium


Professor Justyna Widera-Kalinowska,   2018 Chair-Elect, ACS New York Section, Adelphi University


1:15 p.m.           Designing Transition Metal Phosphide Nanoparticles and Composites for Effective Electrocatalytic and Photocatalytic Water Splitting


Professor Stephanie L. Brock   Wayne State University

Transition metal phosphides are of considerable research interest for the wide range of catalytic functions they imbue. These include hydrodesulfurization of fossil fuels, hydrodeoxygenation of biofuels, and electrocatalytic water splitting reactions, among others. However, the functionality of the phosphide is sensitively dependent on composition, structure and particle size. In order to better understand the roles of structure, electronics, and surface chemistry on catalytic activity and stability, synthetic methods that enable composition, structure, and size to be targeted, and that yield low-polydispersity samples, are needed. In this presentation, the synthesis of bimetallic manganese and ruthenium phosphide nanoparticles M2–xMnxP (M = Fe, Co) and Ni2–xRuxP will be described and their composition-dependent activity for electrocatalytic water oxidation presented. The role of structure, site occupancy, and electronic considerations on functionality will be discussed in the context of designing more active and stable electrocatalysts. Finally, as a means to translate electrocatalytic activity into photocatalytic activity, the design of porous nanoparticle assemblies that blend phosphides with light-harvesting sulfide nanoparticles will be described and their efficacy for photocatalytic water reduction discussed in light of interfacial characteristics. The talk will conclude with a discussion of the importance of rational nanomaterials synthesis and design in addressing 21st century energy and environmental needs.


2:00 p.m.           Modulating Proton-Coupled Electron Transfer Mechanisms for the Efficient Production of Fuels



Dr. Jillian L. Dempsey   University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Molecular transformations of interest for solar fuel production are underpinned by proton-coupled electron transfer (PCET) reactions. To optimize efficiency in the catalytic reactions that mediate fuel production, this proton-electron reactivity must be carefully orchestrated. Our group utilizes a combination of electrochemical methods and time-resolved spectroscopy to elucidate the mechanisms of PCET reactions in both transition metal-based hydrogen-evolving catalysts and model systems. By systematically examining the influence of various reaction parameters—including catalyst structure, ligand electronics and proton source—on the PCET mechanisms and the kinetics of their elementary reaction steps, we are revealing how the PCET reaction space can be intentionally traversed. These findings are providing the blueprints for next-generation catalyst design.



2:45 p.m.           Coffee Break



3:15 p.m.           Operando Methods for the Study of Energy Materials


Dr. Héctor D. Abruña   Cornell University

The dianionic oxo ligand occupies a very special place in coordination chemistry, owing to its ability to stabilize high oxidation states of metals. The ligand field theory of multiple bonding in metal-oxos was published in two papers in the first volume of Inorganic Chemistry. The theory, which accounts for the ground state electronic structures and spectroscopic properties of these complexes, predicts that an “oxo wall” separates Fe-Ru-Os and Co-Rh-Ir in the periodic table. I will review this early work, then discuss the roles metal-oxos play in two of the most important chemical reactions on planet Earth, hydrocarbon oxygenation catalyzed by cytochrome P450, and solar-driven water oxidation catalyzed by photosystem-II.


4:00 p.m.           Architectural Design, 1D Walls, 3D Plumbing, and Painting Blind en Route to Multifunctional Nanoarchitectures for Energy Storage



Dr. Debra R. Rolison,   U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

Nichols Medalist

Our team at the Naval Research Laboratory looks at rate-critical chemical processes where events per second are required for high performance in such technologies as energy storage, energy conversion, (electro)catalysis, and sensing. We then design next-generation systems built around pore–solid nanoarchitectures that seamlessly embody all of the requisite rate functions for high-performance electrochemistry: molecular mass transport, ionic/electronic/thermal conductivity, and electron-transfer kinetics. We have taken the lessons from 20 years of probing the operational and design characteristics of catalytic and energy-relevant nanoarchitectures to create a zinc sponge—a stand-alone, 3D-wired anode that improves current distribution within the electrode structure during charge–discharge cycling, thwarts dendrite-formation, and can challenge the energy density of Li-ion battery packs, all while using safer aqueous-based chemistry. With this breakthrough, we are now addressing the family of zinc-based rechargeable alkaline batteries: nickel–3D zinc, silver–3D zinc, MnO2–3D zinc, and even rechargeable 3D zinc–air. The route we have taken to move from a creative concept to a fabricated reality to the necessary fundamental characterization to prototype development (and ultimately commercialization by outside companies) will be described.



5:00 p.m.           Social Hour



6:00 p.m.           William H. Nichols Medal Award Dinner
                Professor Henry White of the University of Utah will introduce the 2018 Medalist

Reservations for the 2018 William H. Nichols Distinguished Symposium & Medal Award Banquet
in honor of Dr. Debra R. Rolison, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory
may be made by April 1, 2018 using this form

You can pay for your tickets using the buttons below (please make sure to indicated menu selection)
50+ Year Members of the American Chemical Society may receive complimentary tickets to the the Award Symposium by emailing Marilyn Jespersen at the New York Section Office.

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Message from 2018 Chair
Dr. Joseph M. Serafin

2018 Board Meeting Dates


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