2023 Tolman Medal

By Penny Jennings

This article was originally published by UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry

Professor Sarah Tolbert has been selected to receive the 2023 SCALACS Tolman Medal in recognition of her groundbreaking research in nanoscience and materials chemistry.

Tolbert is revolutionizing the design and function of materials by building nanoscale structures that combine synthesis and characterization approaches from the worlds of “soft” and “hard” matter.

The medal is awarded each year by the Southern California Section of the American Chemical Society (SCALACS) in recognition of the medalist’s outstanding contributions to chemistry.

Tolbert will be presented with the medal and give a lecture about her research at the Richard C. Tolman Award Dinner Meeting, hosted by SCALACS and the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry at UCLA. The date and time of the dinner will be announced soon.

Tolbert has been a member of the UCLA faculty since 1997 and currently serves in both the Chemistry and Biochemistry and Materials Science and Engineering Departments.  Research in the Tolbert group focuses on using solution phase methods to control the structure of materials across length scales, from the atomic to the nanometer scale, and then using that structural control to tune  the physical properties of materials for a broad range of applications. Her work spans many areas, including materials for electrochemical energy storage, plastic electronics, magnetic and multiferroic materials, and ultra-hard or low thermal conductivity materials. Tolbert group projects involve an intimate blend of materials synthesis, device physics, and fundamental physical chemistry, making them interdisciplinary efforts.

In addition to her innovative research, Tolbert is also dedicated to using nanoscience to teach the public about the value of scientific research and to inspire a diverse group of students to consider science careers through her work with nanoscience education and outreach. Tolbert serves as the faculty director for the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) Education program, which does public outreach and creates academic courses, workshops, and professional development and training opportunities that make nanoscience accessible to educators and next-generation scientists.

Tolbert’s awards and honors include the 2023 Henry H. Storch Award in Energy Chemistry from the American Chemical Society, UCLA’s 2019 Community Service and Praxis Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Award, and election as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (2017).

The Tolman Medal is named in honor of Richard C. Tolman, a pioneering chemist at Caltech during the first half of the 20th century, who made key discoveries on electrons, among other significant scientific findings. Tolman Medal recipients include eight Nobel Prize winners, two from UCLA. The first Tolman Medal was awarded in 1960 to UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry Professor William G. Young in 1960 for whom Young Hall is named.

In addition to Young, other UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry faculty to be honored with the Tolman Medal are Francis E. Blacet (1968), Robert L. Pecsok (1970), Howard Reiss (1973), Herbert D. Kaesz (1980), Paul D. Boyer (1981), Donald J. Cram (1984), M. Frederick Hawthorne (1986), Christopher S. Foote (1995), Kendall N. Houk (1998), Fred Wudl (2005), Joan S. Valentine (2008), Richard B. Kaner (2009), Michael Jung (2015), Paul S. Weiss (2016), and Jeffrey I. Zink (2017).