May 3, 2002

Cornell Chemistry Professor Receives 3M Award Recognizing Past, Future Research

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Prof. D. Tyler McQuade, chemistry and chemical biology, was awarded a Nontenured Faculty Award from the 3M Corporation last month. Funded by the 3M Contributions Program, the award will provide McQuade with a $15,000 check for his research. The company administers these awards as a means of tapping into innovation sprouting up at universities like Cornell across the country.

The award was presented as part of a series of selective designations for young faculty members. The decision was reached through a combination of evaluating McQuade’s research proposals and examining letters of recommendation, winning him distinction as one of 11 recipients out of a total pool of 80.

3M is a $16 billion global technology company that specializes in health care, industrial, electronics and other markets, touting such innovations as Post-it Notes and Scotch Tape.

The program was developed by 3M’s technical community and has been in place for nearly 25 years as part of corporate cash giving, according to Barbara Kaufman, manager for education contributions at 3M.

“The non-tenured faculty program is supported by non-directed funding, where a recipient can use the money [as they choose], to buy equipment, support a student, etc.,” said Pete Flemming, previous chair of the University Relations Grant Committee at 3M.

Companies such as 3M bestow awards of this kind in part to promote research that one day may provide results or interest students to conduct research, according to Flemming.

“The award recognizes Professor McQuade’s tremendous potential for making innovative contributions to science,” said Prof. Barry K. Carpenter, chemistry and chemical biology. “It is primarily an honor for the recipient, but it [also] means that there is external validation for what we recognized when we offered Professor McQuade a job — he is a person of unusual creativity and breadth of vision.”

McQuade will give a presentation of his research at 3M.

“I [now have the opportunity] to go to Minnesota and give a talk at 3M on my research progress to date, [further] establishing a connection between the company and my research department,” said McQuade.

With a solidified approach to materials science, the company offers a vast array of products, according to the 3M web site.

As a materials chemist, McQuade joined the Cornell faculty in July of last year.

“The [chemistry department] treats me enormously well. My colleagues are really the reason I came; they are fantastic,” McQuade said.

This is the second time in recent history that a Cornell chemistry professor has won the award from 3M, according to Prof. Bruce Ganem, chemistry and chemical biology.

“I interpret honors such as these to mean that our department is successfully recruiting the best and brightest new faculty to our campus, and that through their research and teaching, these faculty members are distinguishing themselves as the top young scientists in a very competitive field,” said Ganem. “That’s something to be proud of,” he commented.

A graduate school friend nominated McQuade for the 3M award after he submitted his application last October.

McQuade’s current materials research aligns itself well with 3M’s own mission for paving the way towards the future of industrial materials.

“I constantly marvel at their products and also see them as an opportunity for helping my students [who will potentially search for future employment at companies like 3M],” McQuade said.

In addition to the Nontenured Faculty Award, McQuade was also conferred a new faculty award last fall from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation.

He underscored his passion for academia, and the complexities of how nature operates, providing an opportunity for the creation of innovations.

McQuade’s research group investigates an approach to materials research, drawing from the synthesis of new, functional materials.

“I want to take what people have learned and use that to make the next generation of materials that we interact with on a daily basis,” McQuade said.

The group is impassioned by “green chemistry,” or how molecules inherently have an efficient capability to create a product with a significant reduction in waste. Although McQuade underscored how current mass society actions can arguably be based on consumption motives, he believes functional materials can effectively assist in overall waste reduction.

“The projects on which McQuade is working promise to make very important contributions to chemistry and to a number of scientific disciplines that border on chemistry,” Carpenter noted.

The design of highly organized materials and their associated synthesis is among McQuade’s long-term goals, making substances precisely enough to organize themselves into higher matter.

In addition to his research, McQuade also teaches an advanced physical organic chemistry class offered in the fall.

“Perhaps what I like most about my position as a professor in the department is my own interaction with students, watching them grow. I have a vested interest in the intellectual growth around me, but it is also the research that gets me up in the morning,” he remarked.

Archived article by Chris Westgate