Just the right chemistry earns UH professor Guggenheim Fellowship

April 23, 2007

HOUSTON, April 23, 2007 - One of only two chemists in the United States and Canada selected for a Guggenheim Fellowship this year hails from the University of Houston. Eric R. Bittner, associate professor of chemistry, joins an illustrious group of past recipients.

Among 189 scientists, artists and scholars named 2007 fellows by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Bittner received this honor for his research in dynamics of electron transfer between organic molecules. Geri Richmond of the University of Oregon was the other winner in chemistry.

"To receive a Guggenheim Fellowship when only two were given in the United States and Canada for chemistry is a true honor for Eric, and it also speaks highly of the caliber of faculty in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and at UH," said John L. Bear, dean of the UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

Previous winners include Linus Pauling, 1954 Nobel Prize winner for chemistry, as well as such household names as Ansel Adams, W.H. Auden, Aaron Copland, Martha Graham, Langston Hughes, Henry Kissinger, Philip Roth and Eudora Welty.

"One typically doesn't expect awards, especially considering the amazing list of previous recipients," Bittner said. "The list of fellows is a list of the most outstanding members of almost any academic, scientific or artistic field. I'm quite honored and humbled to be included on that list."

Bittner's fellowship will allow him to spend part of the 2007-08 academic year at Cambridge University, where he will work with Sir Richard Friend, Cavendish Professor of Physics, and the Optical Electronic Group. Friend is a pioneer in the field of polymer optoelectronics.

"We've collaborated loosely on various fundamental issues regarding how light-emitting diodes and photovoltaic cells based upon organic polymers, or plastics, emit or absorb light," Bittner said.

The foundation appoints fellows based on past distinguished achievement and exceptional promise of future accomplishment. This year's recipients were selected from among nearly 2,800 applications, with awards totaling $7.6 million. Bittner is the first UH scientist named as a fellow in 18 years, joining more than 10 other former UH recipients.

Worth noting is the diversity of the Guggenheim fellows, who represent a wide array of interests, ages and institutions. Applicants are considered from 78 fields, ranging from the natural sciences to the creative arts. At a time of decreased funding in the arts and sciences, the Guggenheim Foundation has become increasingly important and has raised funds to appoint larger numbers of fellows each year.

Bittner came to UH in 1997. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry and physics at Valparaiso University in 1988 and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Chicago in 1994. He was a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas from 1994-96 and a visiting scholar at Stanford University from 1996-97. He received a National Science Foundation Career Award in chemistry in 1999 and is serving a three-year term on the Committee on Careers and Professional Development of the American Physical Society.

"We had a bit of a celebration," Bittner said of his family. "I'm really looking forward to celebrating once we get to Cambridge. My two boys will likely attend part of the third grade in the United Kingdom, which will be an awesome experience for them. They're already learning to play cricket."
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For a full list of 2007 Guggenheim fellows, visit http://www.gf.org/newfellow.html.

About the University of Houston

The University of Houston, Texas' premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 35,000 students.

About the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

The UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, with nearly 400 faculty members and approximately 4,000 students, offers bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in the natural sciences, computational sciences and mathematics. Faculty members in the departments of biology and biochemistry, chemistry, computer science, geosciences, mathematics and physics have internationally recognized collaborative research programs in association with UH interdisciplinary research centers, Texas Medical Center institutions and national laboratories.

For more information about UH, visit the university's Newsroom at www.uh.edu/newsroom.

To receive UH science news via e-mail, visit www.uh.edu/admin/media/sciencelist.html.

University of Houston

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