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2018 Steacie Prize Winner: Tomislav Friščić - Simplicity and Minimalistic Design for Cleaner, Safer and More Exciting Chemistry

Wednesday, April 24, 2019 16:00to18:00
Maass Chemistry Building Room 112, 801 rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Montreal, QC, H3A 0B8, CA

Chemistry professor Tomislav Friščić is just the third McGillian ever to win the prestigious Steacie Prize for Natural Sciences. Join us in congratulating Prof. Friščić at this official prize presentation ceremony, followed by a public lecture delivered by the renowned green chemistry pioneer.


Chemistry and chemical manufacturing are often perceived through the lenses of pollution and environmental impact, leading to a tainted view of the many benefits that chemical sciences have provided to the modern society. The need to resolve this conundrum has inspired the development of Green Chemistry, a discipline dedicated to the development of new, cleaner and safer approaches to chemical synthesis.[1]

Many of the goals of Green Chemistry can be achieved by re-considering and simplification of chemical reaction designs and strategies that are often considered ubiquitous. In particular, the recent emergence of mechanochemical techniques, i.e. chemical transformations induced and sustained by mechanical action in the solid state, has provided a path to greatly reduce or even completely eliminate the use of solvents.[2] Whereas solvents have been used by chemists for centuries, continuing a practice employed by alchemists, they are also the principal component of over 40 million tons of toxic chemical waste produced annually throughout the world. In contrast, whereas solid-state and solvent-free chemical transformations have been known for millenia, they have remained largely ignored by modern chemists.[3]

The recent re-discovery of the solid state as a reaction environment, and introduction of low-solvent and low-energy reaction techniques, such as mechanochemistry or accelerated aging,[2,4] provides for the first time an opportunity to create viable, generally-applicable alternatives to solvent-based chemistry that can not only reduce the environmental impact of chemical reactions, but also provide a door to previously not known chemical transformations, and the synthesis of previously difficult or maybe even impossible to reach materials and molecules.

[1] Li, C. J. Green Chem. 2016, 18, 1836;
[2] Do, J.-L.; Friščić, T. ACS Centr. Sci. 2017, 3, 13;
[3] Caley, E. R.; Richards, J. F. “Theophrastus, On Stones, Introduction, Greek text, English translation and Commentary”, Ohio State University, Columbus (1956);
[4] Mottillo, C. Molecules 2017, 22, 144.


Tomislav Friščić is an Associate Professor at the Department of Chemistry, McGill University, developing strategies for safer, cleaner and environmentally-friendly synthesis of molecules and materials. He is a co-author on over 220 peer-reviewed publications, book chapters and patent applications, and co-founder of two “CleanTech”-oriented start-ups. He is the Vice-Chair of the Canadian National Committee for Crystallography and the Canadian representative on the Council of the American Crystallographic Association. He serves as a Board Member of CrystEngComm (RSC), Topic Editor and Social Media Editor of Crystal Growth & Design (ACS), and is an Early Career Board member of the ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering (ACS). His group’s work was recognized by several awards, including the Award for Research Excellence in Materials Chemistry of the Canadian Society for Chemistry (2019), Royal Society of Canada Rutherford Medal in Chemistry (2018), Steacie Prize for Natural Sciences (2018), and more.


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