News maker: Alumna named MacArthur Fellow

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Melanie Sanford (Photo courtesy the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)

Yale alumna Melanie Sanford has been named a 2011 MacArthur Fellow in recognition of her groundbreaking organometallic research.

Sanford is one of 22 individuals this year who have received the five-year, $500,000 unrestricted fellowship from the MacArthur Foundation. The fellowships recognize talented individuals in a variety of fields who have shown exceptional originality in and dedication to their creative pursuits. Nominated anonymously by leaders in their respective fields, the MacArthur Fellows are never notified of their candidacy; they learn of their selection only when they receive a call from the foundation.

Sanford, who earned both B.S. and M.S. (1996) degrees from Yale, is currently the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Chemistry at the University of Michigan.

As a chemist, Sanford works to revive and enhance approaches to organic synthesis previously set aside because of their technical difficulty. Her research has potential impact for industrial chemistry, particularly in pharmaceuticals. She aims to minimize the generation of toxic by-products, thus contributing to the development of “greener” chemistry.

“Through her basic research on organometallic synthesis strategies, Sanford is opening new paths to making important compounds we use everyday, while diminishing the environmental impact of their manufacture,” notes the MacArthur Foundation.

Robert Crabtree, the Conkey P. Whitehead Professor of Chemistry at Yale, was Sanford’s mentor during her years on campus. “I very much enjoyed working with her at Yale,” he says. “Since then, at Ann Arbor, she has done important work that has made a difference to the way we think about synthesis of compounds of pharmaceutical interest.”

A profile of Sanford and her work can be found on the MacArthur Foundation website.

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