Francis P. Garvan-John M. Olin Medal


Sponsor: The Francis P. Garvan-John M. Olin Medal Endowment

Purpose: To recognize distinguished service to chemistry by women chemists.

Eligibility: A nominee must be a citizen of the United States and have performed distinguished service to chemistry. The award will be granted regardless of race, age, religion, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity, presence of disabilities, and educational background.

Deadline: November 1 (annual review).

Establishment & Support: The award was established in 1936 through a donation from Francis P. Garvan and has been supported by a fund set up at that time. The award was sponsored by W. R. Grace and Co. from 1979 to 1983. Effective with the 1984 award, Olin Corporation assumed sponsorship.

2011 recipient Sherry J. Yennello (second to left) is
presented her award by sponsor representative
Judith Cohen (right), ACS Board Member Kathleen
Schulz (second to right) and ACS President Nancy B.
Jackson (left).

Sue B. Clark's colleagues say she embodies the spirit of the Garvan-Olin Medal, which recognizes distinguished service to chemistry by women chemists.  Clark, who is Regents Professor of Chemistry at Washington State University (WSU), Pullman, “is an outstanding leader in nuclear and radiochemistry, and her achievements to promote and increase the participation of women in science are truly impressive,” says Heino Nitsche, a chemistry professor at the University of California, Berkeley.  “I could not think of a more deserving person for this award.”


Clark, 50, has garnered international recognition for her work on the environmental chemistry of actinides, such as uranium and plutonium, and for the development of analytical methods to measure these radioactive elements in environmental samples.  Her work has had applications in radioactive waste management, nuclear safeguards, and nuclear forensics.


In July 2011, President Barack Obama appointed Clark to the U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, which advises Congress and the Secretary of Energy on the technical aspects of the management and disposal of the nation's high-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel.


While Clark is making a difference around the world, her colleagues say she has made an impact on a more personal level.


“She has been a mentor, role model, and advocate for women in science,” says Darleane C. Hoffman, an expert in nuclear chemistry who is a professor at UC Berkeley and faculty senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.  Clark has “worked tirelessly to encourage women she met at American Chemical Society meetings, national laboratories, and elsewhere to apply for vacant positions at WSU,” Hoffman adds.  “The resultant increase in the number of women in the applicant pool translated into more women hired into faculty positions.”


“Encouraging women and minorities to seek academic opportunities and helping them to overcome the barriers are responsibilities of all chemists,” Clark says.  “I am a firm believer that changing the face of the academic faculty will eventually balance the demographics of our discipline.”


Clark joined WSU Pullman as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry in 1996. She received tenure in 2000 and served as Chair of the Chemistry Department from 2004 to 2007.  She has also served as Interim Dean of the College of Sciences and interim Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at WSU's Tri-Cities campus.  In 2011, Clark was promoted to the university's highest faculty rank of Regents Professor.


Clark earned a B.S. degree in chemistry from Lander College, in Greenwood, S.C., in 1984, and a Ph.D. in inorganic and radio­chemistry from Florida State University, Tallahassee, in 1989.  Later that year, she started her career as a Senior Scientist in the Interim Waste Technology division of Westinghouse Savannah River Laboratory.  From 1992 to 1996, she was a Research Ecologist at the University of Georgia's Savannah River Ecology Laboratory.


ACS named Clark a Fellow in 2010 in recognition of her contributions to science and her service to the society.  From 2001 to 2006, Clark directed the ACS Division of Nuclear Chemistry & Technology's Summer School in Nuclear & Radiochemistry, a six-week program for undergraduate students sponsored by the Division and funded by the Department of Energy.


Clark will present the award address before the ACS Division of Nuclear Chemistry & Technology. – LlNDA WANG


Throughout her career, Sherry J. Yennello, a chemistry professor and associate dean for faculty affairs at Texas A&M University, has worked hard not only to push the frontiers of nuclear chemistry but also to increase participation of women and minorities in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Her success in both of these endeavors has earned her the respect and praise of her colleagues.

“I have seen firsthand Dr. Yennello’s dedication to solid scientific principles, to academic excellence, and to service, within the university and beyond, through the opening of opportunities for diversity in the scientific community,” says Marcetta Y. Darensbourg, a chemistry professor at Texas A&M. “Through her interests and leadership positions, she has addressed the causes at all levels that impede the progress of women in science.”

“Sherry is a first-rate chemist whose work on heavy-ion collisions is internationally respected; she has also been a tireless advocate for women and students,” says Steven W. Yates, a chemistry professor at the University of Kentucky. “She has provided exemplary service to our profession at all levels.”

To recognize Yennello’s balance of top-notch research and service, she is being honored by ACS with the 2011 Francis P. Garvan-John M. Olin Medal.

“I’ve spent a great deal of time and energy in my career trying to make more opportunities available for a broader spectrum of people,” Yennello says. “This award is an acknowledgment and recognition of the importance of this effort.

“Right now, there is a small segment of the population that makes up a large part of the STEM workforce,” Yennello explains. “This means there’s a large part of the talent pool that we’re not tapping into when we’re talking about STEM fields,” she says, adding that accessing this broader pool “benefits all of us.”

One effort that Yennello, 46, is currently involved with is a national conversation on gender equality within physics departments. Her efforts, through the American Physical Society, aim to engage members of physics departments in evaluating their departments and assessing ways to make opportunities more broadly available to a more diverse set of people.

“I really believe you need to win over the hearts and minds of people for change to really happen,” Yennello points out. “You can legislate action, but you can’t legislate what people think and how people respond. If you can get people to think about what’s going on and why, then you’re going to have lasting change.”

Yennello received a B.S. in chemistry and in physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1985 and 1986, respectively. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in nuclear chemistry from Indiana University in 1990. After a two-year stint as a research associate at Michigan State University, Yennello joined the faculty of Texas A&M, where her research focuses on the use of accelerator-based heavy-ion reactions to study the dynamics and thermodynamics of excited nuclear matter and determine the nuclear equation of state.

A fellow of the American Physical Society, Yennello has received numerous awards including the 2010 Outstanding Mentoring Award given by the Texas A&M Women’s Faculty Network.

Yennello will present the award address before the Division of Nuclear Chemistry & Technology

Susan R. Morrissey  Chemical & Engineering News, Volume 89 Issue 6 | February 7, 2011 | pp. 41-42 | Awards

Previous NUCL Garvan Award Recipients

1990 Darleane Hoffman


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