The Oklahoma section of the American Chemical Society (ACS) has named Kenneth Roberts, University of Tulsa Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, the 2020 Chemist of the Year. The distinction is a once-in-a-lifetime honor awarded to chemists who have established national and international reputations in the advancement of chemistry and science.
Roberts is the current TU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry chairperson and has served on the faculty for 18 years. He also has mentored students as the TU student local ACS section adviser. Nearly 100 students from his research group have presented at the Annual ACS Meeting.
Research from his early career is based on the origins of cancer from chemical carcinogens using low-temperature fluorescence spectroscopy. That initial investigation led to further studies in chemical carcinogenesis and other bio-analytical studies such as the pharmacology of antibiotics during labor and delivery. Other research areas have included using luminescent nanoparticles to detect pathogenic bacteria and viruses, development of nanostructured third generation photovoltaics, hybrid photovoltaic/solar concentrators, materials properties under stress and environmental chemistry of Oklahoma water sources. His research is expansive, but one of the most enjoyable parts of his career involves “working on important projects with students in the laboratory.”
I’m very honored although it’s more of an award to all of the students as much as to me,” Roberts explained. “My achievements are their achievements.”
Dale Teeters, a former colleague and past department chairperson, said the award is very much deserved by Roberts.
“He is internationally known for his research in nanotechnology and environmental chemistry,” Teeters stated. “He has used his knowledge of water chemistry to serve the state of Oklahoma by leading a team of researchers and environmentally aware Oklahomans in the monitoring of water resources in Oklahoma. The state will benefit from his efforts in Oklahoma water quality research for generations to come.”