Adam Heller Awarded Torbern Bergman Medal in Analytical Chemistry

Adam Heller (left) and Allen Bard (right) standing next to each other in suits after they've received the Torbern Bergman MedalAdam Heller, chemical engineering research professor and professor emeritus in the Cockrell School of Engineering, was awarded the Torbern Bergman Medal by the Analytical Division of the Swedish Chemical Society June 9 in Stockholm.

He shared the recognition with fellow UT Austin faculty member Allen Bard, the Norman Hackerman-Welch Regents Chair in Chemistry and director of the Center for Electrochemistry in the College of Natural Sciences. The medal, awarded biennially since 1967, is one of the most prestigious international awards in analytical chemistry and recognizes achievements of great importance in the field.

“This is a great honor for UT Austin,” said Tom Truskett, McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering Chair. “Both of these scientists have significantly changed the world with their contributions, and this award celebrates not only their pioneering research but also the societal impact of their discoveries.”

Heller was honored for establishing the field of electrical “wiring” of enzymes, a method used to make electrical connections between electrodes and the catalytic redox centers of enzymes. His “wired” enzymes became the core technology of the FreeStyle Navigator™ system of Abbott Diabetes Care to continuously and accurately monitor subcutaneous glucose levels in diabetics.

The FreeStyle Navigator™ system makes it easier for diabetics to regulate glycemia with continuous readings provided every minute through wireless transmitters. The navigator model followed Heller’s original FreeStyle™ system that made glucose monitoring relatively painless by requiring minuscule blood samples and allowing users to test on forearms and not just the fingers. With more than a billion units produced annually, FreeStyle™ is the highest impact nanotechnology or micro-fluidic device to date. Both products were ground-breaking for diabetes management and have improved the quality of life of millions.

Heller was also noted for his work on the first neodymium liquid lasers for medical therapies, early lithium batteries used in implanted medical devices and defense systems, and the first photoelectrochemical cell to convert sunlight into energy. He has 215 granted US patents, 261 publications, and has received accolades such as the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the Spiers Medal and the Faraday Medal of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Allen Bard was recognized as a top researcher in the field of electrochemistry, the study of how electric currents affect chemical reactions and vice versa. Electrochemistry is used to, among other things, develop better batteries, measure the purity of drinking water, control corrosion and extract and purify metals. Bard and his coworkers have pioneered several novel methods for imaging chemical reactions, in some cases, down to the level of individual molecules.

Bard has published more than 900 peer-reviewed research papers and 75 book chapters and other publications, and he has received more than 23 patents. He is the recipient of the Wolf Prize, the Enrico Fermi Award and a National Medal of Science, among numerous honors.

The medal, named after 18th-century Swedish chemist and distinguished teacher Torbern Bergman, was presented at the 2014 Analytical Days Conference.




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