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UCLA alum Robert McMahon (PhD ’85), Professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, selected for prestigious ACS 2019 Arthur C Cope Scholar Award. 

The American Chemical Society (ACS) chose McMahon for the award in recognition of his studies of the structures and reactivity patterns in foundational organic molecules. His research program explores basic aspects of organic chemistry in the context of harsh reaction conditions, which include extreme temperatures and electrical discharges, such as lightning strikes. These studies allow the McMahon group to better understand the chemical processes that occur in natural environments, like flames, the atmosphere and space.  

Professor Robert McMahon and Susan Chapman, Orville Chapman’s widow, in 2013

Professor Robert McMahon and Susan Chapman, Orville Chapman’s widow, at UCLA in 2013.

McMahon received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1980, and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from UCLA in 1985, studying mechanisms of carbene rearrangements with Professor Orville Chapman. After researching excited-state electron transfer as a postdoctoral research associate with Professor Mark S. Wrighton at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, McMahon accepted a position on the faculty in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1988 and was promoted to full professor in 1997.  McMahon served as the Chair of the Department of Chemistry from July 1, 2013 to June 31, 2017. He was named an Associate Editor of the Journal of Organic Chemistry in 2000, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2003, and a Fellow of the American Chemical Society in 2011. To learn more about McMahon’s research, visit his group’s website.

McMahon returned to UCLA on February 23, 2013, to give the Inaugural Orville L. Chapman Lecture. “I consider this to be one of the most significant honors I’ve had professionally, because Professor Chapman was so important to my graduate experience, my education, the way I think about science, the way I run my research group, and the way I treat my graduate students,” McMahon said at his lecture.

The purpose of the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award is to recognize and encourage excellence in organic chemistry. The award consists of $5,000, a certificate, and a $40,000 unrestricted research grant to be assigned by the recipient to any university or nonprofit institution. At the ACS National Meeting in San Diego, McMahon will deliver an awards address at the Cope Award Symposium on Tuesday, August 27, 2019, from 8:10 to 8:45 a.m. at the San Diego Convention Center, Ballroom 20A. 

On August 27, 2019, at the UCLA Research Showcase and Reception in San Diego, we will toast McMahon and other UCLA alumni and faculty who are being honored by the ACS. Learn more about the event here

Prior UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry faculty recipients of the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award are Professors Michael Jung, Christopher Foote, Kendall Houk, Yi Tang, Neil Garg, Miguel Garcia-Garibay, and Heather Maynard.

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry,