Brent Shanks Receives Inaugural Great Plains Catalysis Society Award

The 2018 Great Plains Catal­y­sis Soci­ety Award is pre­sent­ed to Pro­fes­sor Brent Shanks, Iowa State University’s Anson Marston Dis­tin­guished Pro­fes­sor in Engi­neer­ing, Mike and Jean Stef­fen­son Chair, and Direc­tor of the NSF Engi­neer­ing Research Cen­ter for Biore­new­able Chem­i­cals (CBiRC). Dr. Shanks is a vision­ary in the devel­op­ment of new mate­ri­als to bridge the gap between bio­log­i­cal catal­y­sis and het­ero­ge­neous catal­y­sis. His accom­plish­ments include the cre­ation of new par­a­digms for the con­ver­sion of bio­mass-derived sug­ars to high­er-val­ue chem­i­cals by com­bin­ing bio­log­i­cal and het­ero­ge­neous cat­alyt­ic path­ways. In par­tic­u­lar, his iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of tri­acetic acid lac­tone (TAL) as a build­ing block mol­e­cule; his ele­gant­ly com­bined meth­ods to elu­ci­date cat­alyt­ic paths, the nature of the active sites and the effects of sol­vent in the cat­alyt­ic con­ver­sion of biore­new­able feed­stock to chem­i­cals to aid ratio­nal design of bet­ter cat­a­lysts; and his great con­tri­bu­tions to the list of one hun­dred bio­priv­i­leged mol­e­cule can­di­dates have sig­nif­i­cant­ly influ­enced cur­rent and future biore­new­able research in the het­ero­ge­neous catal­y­sis com­mu­ni­ty. Dr. Shanks has also lever­aged these sci­en­tif­ic suc­cess­es as an entre­pre­neur, hold­ing sev­er­al patents and co-found­ing three biore­new­ables-based start­up com­pa­nies. In addi­tion to his own sci­en­tif­ic accom­plish­ments, he has served as a dri­ving force behind the suc­cess of CBiRC for the past decade and cat­alyzed the fur­ther suc­cess­es of those who have the priv­i­lege of work­ing with him, includ­ing his 34 grad­u­ate stu­dents and 15 post­docs and vis­it­ing sci­en­tists. Dr. Shanks’s accom­plish­ments as a sci­en­tist, entre­pre­neur, edu­ca­tor, and orga­ni­za­tion­al leader epit­o­mize the spir­it of the Great Plains Catal­y­sis Soci­ety Award, mak­ing him an exem­plary hon­oree to serve as the inau­gur­al Award win­ner.