Prizes and achievements
As one of the premier chemistry departments in the world, with six associated Nobel laureates, the Department continues to build its reputation for producing world-leading and cutting edge research in the molecular sciences.
Undergraduate chemistry students are immediately immersed in this research intensive environment and can make valuable contributions to research groups and programmes via research project work both within their formal degree programmes and as elective experiences, e.g. via the College’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP).
As a consequence, each year many chemistry undergraduates contribute substantially to the research output of the Department. This is evidenced by the impressive range of excellent research publications they co-author as a result of their important contributions to the advancement of the discipline. These include ‘first author’ papers, which signify that the undergraduate in question was the major contributor to the described science.
Read some student achievements from recent years.
Prizes are usually awarded by the examiners board each year to individual students who have performed exceptionally.
Third year (non final year) prizes
GSK Prizes for Excellence
- GSK Prize for Excellence in Practical Organic Chemistry
- GSK Prize for Excellence in Practical Physical Chemistry
- GSK Prize for Excellence in Practical Inorganic Chemistry
These prizes are awarded to the three UG students (MSci or 4/5 year BSc) who are judged to have performed best overall in these branches of practical chemistry during the 3rd year laboratory courses.
Samuel Francis Boys Prize for Excellence in Computational Chemistry
This prize is sponsored by Gaussian, Inc. and is awarded to the UG student (MSci or 4/5 year BSc) who is judged to have performed best overall in the 3rd year computational chemistry laboratory course.
This prize is named after Imperial College Chemistry alumnus ‘Frank’ Boys FRS (b. 1911, d. 1972). Boys studied at Imperial for a BSc in Chemistry (1929-1932) and afterwards as a Beit Scientific Research Fellow advised by H Brereton Baker, before moving to the University of Cambridge to complete a PhD (1935-1938) on the quantum theory of optical rotation, supervised by the physical chemist Prof. Thomas M. Lowry, later working with Prof. John E. Lennard-Jones.
After lecturing in mathematical physics at Queen's University Belfast, he returned to London during the second world war and later to Imperial College as an ICI research fellow (1945-1948), leaving again for Cambridge in 1949 where he remained until the end of his career. Boys was a pioneer in Computational Chemistry: arguably the first person to begin coaxing the embryonic computers of his day into creating an accurate picture of the nature of the chemical bond. He calculated wavefunctions that were accurate enough to predict molecular quantities reliably, particularly for radicals, ions and other unstable reactive molecular species, inspired by his war work.
He also introduced Gaussian-type functions into electronic structure theory, widely adopted since as atomic orbital basis sets through the Gaussian program first released by John Pople's group in 1970. This prize is sponsored by Gaussian, Inc. See:
- Martin, D. Chemistry World, 2010, Aug, 56 (DOI: http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/restricted/2010/August/TheLostBoysOfQuantumChemistry.asp
- Handy, N. C.; Pople, J. A.; Shavitt, I., J. Phys. Chem. 1996, 100, 6007 [Appendix: Three Conversations with Frank Boys (1948−1958−1968)] (DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/jp963465d)
- Hall G. G. Mol. Phys. 1996, 88, 309-314 (DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00268979650026352)
Barton Prize for Excellence in Organic Chemistry
This prize is awarded to the UG student (MSci or 4/5 year BSc) who has performed best in the IIIA organic exams.
Additionally, there are prizes for the best third year literature report posters (MSci).
This prize is named after Imperial College Chemistry Professor Sir Derek R.H. Barton, FRS who was a Nobel prize winning organic chemist. He was an undergraduate at Imperial College from 1938-1940 and obtained his Ph.D. degree in Organic Chemistry in 1942. Following government and industrial research placements he returned to Imperial College as an assistant lecturer then ICI research Fellow in the Department of Chemistry (1946-1949). He then spent time at Harvard University before being appointed as a Reader then Professor in Organic Chemistry at Birkbeck College. In 1955 he took up the position of Regius Professor of Chemistry at the University of Glasgow and in 1957 he was appointed Professor of Organic Chemistry at Imperial College. Professor Barton made seminal contributions to the field of conformational analysis and in 1969 he shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Professor Odd Hassel for ‘contributions to the development of the concept of conformation and its application in chemistry’. He was knighted in 1972 and in 1978 he became Director of the Institut de Chimie des Substances Naturelles (ICSN - Gif Sur-Yvette) in France before becoming Distinguished Professor at Texas A&M University in 1986. He held this position until his death in 1998. In addition to his work on conformational analysis, Sir Derek Barton invented numerous reactions in organic chemistry such as the Barton reaction, the Barton decarboxylation, and the Barton-McCombie deoxygenation. One of the research labs in the RCS building here at Imperial College in which he worked is named after him. See:
- Barton's Nobel Foundation Biography
- Barton's Nobel Lecture The Principles of Conformational Analysis
- Video Podcast of Barton Talking About Conformational Analysis
Margaret Goodgame UROP Prize
This prize is awarded to a 2nd year UG student who has shown academic excellence, this could be in the year overall or in the written exams or labs. It will allow the student to undertake a summer UROP placement at the end of their 2nd year or 3rd year.
Final year prizes
Governor’s Prize (BSc)
This prize is awarded to the final year BSc student who has achieved the highest Grade Point Average (GPA) mark over all aspects of the degree and is therefore is given to the top ranked BSc student in the year.
Governor’s Prize (MSci)
This prize is awarded to the final year MSci student who has achieved the highest Grade Point Average (GPA) mark over all aspects of the degree and is therefore is given to the top ranked MSci student in the year.
HVA Briscoe Prize for Excellence in Inorganic Chemistry
This prize is awarded to a final year UG student (BSc or MSci) who is judged to have performed best in all aspects of Inorganic Chemistry throughout the degree course as judged by consideration of their coursework, exam performance and final year research project work.
This prize is named after Imperial College Chemistry Professor Henry V. A. Briscoe (known as ‘Vincent’, b.1888, d.1961) who was a distinguished inorganic chemist in the Department (1932-1954). He was an undergraduate at IC from 1906-1909 where he worked under Professor T. E. Thorpe and was a lecturer at IC during the war. He then became professor at the Sir John Cass Technical Institute and Armstrong College, Newcastle before being appointed as Chair of Inorganic chemistry at IC in 1932; the first Professor of Inorganic chemistry in the country; in 1949 he became Head of Department. He was famous for his lecture demonstrations. During the war work he explored the chemistry of thorium and the rare earths as well as working on a number of secret projects (e.g. picking up radio signals from local embassies). He worked on phosgene, high vacuum techniques and made precise atomic weight determinations of vanadium, tin, thallium, boron and bromine and pioneered isotopic labelling techniques using 2H and 18O to study exchange reactions. He was also apparently a keen motorist whose knowledge of London streets ‘would not have discraced a taxi driver’. The current level 1 Undergraduate Physical Chemistry Laboratory in the main C1 Chemistry Building at South Kensington is named after him. See:
- Wilkinson, G. Nature 1961, 192, 604 (DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/192604a0)
- Obituary, The Times, 25th Sept 1961.
- Gay, H. The History of Imperial College London 1907-2007 2007, Imperial College Press
Department of Chemistry Prize for Excellence in Organic Chemistry
This prize is awarded to a final year UG student (BSc or MSci) who is judged to have performed best in all aspects of Organic Chemistry throughout the degree course as judged by consideration of their coursework, exam performance and final year research project work.
Department of Chemistry Prize for Excellence in Physical Chemistry
This prize is awarded to a final year UG student (BSc or MSci) who is judged to have performed best in all aspects of Physical Chemistry throughout the degree course as judged by consideration of their coursework, exam performance and final year research project work.
Alfred Bader Prize for Organic Chemistry
This prize is awarded to a final year MSci student, who is destined to continue study in the Department of Chemistry, Imperial College as a research student, for excellence in organic chemistry.
This prize was endowed by Dr Alfred Bader, CBE (b.1924) who is a distinguished organic chemist businessman, art collector and philanthropist.
Dr Bader co-founded the Aldrich Chemical Company in 1951. In 1975 the Aldrich Chemical Company merged with the Sigma Chemical Corporation to become the Sigma-Aldrich Corporation, now one of the largest chemical companies in the USA. Dr Bader was president and later chairman of the combined company until his departure in 1991. He was a tireless promotor of the Aldrich brand and will be remembered by many British academic o rganic chem i s ts for his frequent visits, along with his wife Isabel, to prominent organic research groups to discuss their chemical requirements and collect suggestions for new compounds to commercialise.
Increasingly, since his retirement from Sigma-Aldrich, he has gained recognition for his work as an art connoisseur and philanthropist. A lifelong collector, Dr Bader is a devoted art historian and collection of fine paintings. In 1995 Bader published his autobiography, Adventures of a Chemist Collector, which detailed his experiences from Nazi-era refugee, to chemist magnate, to fine arts connoisseur. In 2008 he published his second autobiography, Chemistry & Art - Further Adventures of a Chemist Collector.
Evans Medal for the Best Inorganic Research Project
This medal is awarded to a final year UG student (MSci or BSc) who is judged to have carried out the best Inorganic research project.
This medal is named after Imperial College Chemistry Professor Dennis. F. Evans, FRS (b.1928, d.1990) who was a distinguished inorganic chemist in the Department (1956-1990).
The son of a carpenter and a dress maker, Evans was an undergraduate at Oxford and stayed on to study for a PhD under Professor Sir Rex Richards before carrying out post-doctoral studies with Professor Robert Mulliken, the chemistry Nobel laureate of 1966, in Chicago, USA. He was appointed lecturer at IC in 1955, Reader in 1964, and finally Professor in 1981 which was the year in which he also became FRS.
He was a tremendous character who enjoyed a great rapport with students in the Department. He was known and loved for his eccentricities, wide collection of animals (including snakes, scorpions, locusts and alligators!), friendship with exotic people - William Burroughs, Christine Keeler and many others, and exciting demonstrations (fires, explosions, chewing glass and ‘drinking’ liquid oxygen). He was often an expert witness, e.g. in the Georgi Markov trial and in many cases on drugs.
Scientifically, his interests spanned all branches of chemistry. He carried out important fundamental work in NMR (relative signs of spin-coupling constants), electronic spectra of gases with oxygen under pressure, and coordination chemistry. He is probably most famous for his work in the area of magnetochemistry and specifically for the development of the ‘Evans method’ for determining magnetic susceptibilities of transition metal complexes in solution by NMR. See:
- Green, M.; Griffiths, W.P., Bibl. Mems. Fells. Roy. Soc. Lon. 2000, 46, 165 (DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsbm.1999.0078)
- Gay, H. The History of Imperial College London 1907-2007 2007, Imperial College Press
- Evans, D. F., J. Chem. Soc. 1959, 2003 (DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/JR9590002003)
- Evans, D. F.; Fazakerley, G. V.; Phillips, R. F., J. Chem. Soc. A, 1971, 1931 (DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/J19710001931)
- Evans, D. F.; Jakubovic, D. A., J. Chem. Soc., Dalton Trans. 1988, 2927 (DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/DT9880002927 )
- Grant, D. H., J. Chem. Educ. 1995, 72, 39 (DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/ed072p39)
- Piguet, C., J. Chem. Educ. 1997, 74, 815 (DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/ed074p815
Department of Chemistry Prize for the Best Organic Research Project
This prize is awarded to a final year UG students (MSci or BSc) who is judged to have carried out the best Organic chemistry research project.
Department of Chemistry Prize for the Best Physical Research Project
This prize is awarded to a final year UG students (MSci or BSc) who is judged to have carried out the best Physical Chemistry research project.
Departmental Prizes for Outstanding Overall Performance
A variable number of these prizes may be awarded to final year students (BSc and MSci) not receiving any of the above prizes but judged by the examiners to have performed outstandingly over the course of their degree. Typically, these would be only awarded to students with an overall GPA >800/1000.
J McCombie Prize
This prize is awarded to a final year UG student (BSc or MSci) who is judged to have best combined academic achievement with contribution to the Imperial College Union.
Additionally, there are prizes for the best final year research project presentations (MSci) and for the best final year research project posters (BSc).
This prize is named after Dr John McCombie (b.1920, d.1994) who studied for a BSc in Chemistry as a Royal Scholar and then for a PhD studying Acetylenic Alcohols under the supervision of Sir Ian Heilbron and Dr. (later, Professor Sir) Ewart Jones at Imperial College (1938-1943). He was also secretary of the Imperial College Union and President of the Royal College of Science Union. In 1943 he moved to Imperial Chemistry Industries (ICI) at Blackley, Hexagon House, Manchester, working on the synthesis of Nylon and Terylene. In 1945 he became an MRC post-doctoral researcher under Professor A. C. Chibnal in the Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge working on the structure of Insulin. From 1946-1963 he was employed by the Distillers Co. Ltd, Great Burgh, Epsom, initially working on the isolation of penicillin and streptomycin as a scientist and rising to the rank of commercial and development director of the Chemical Division. From 1963-1972 he was Director of Guest Industrials Ltd. (a wholly owned subsidiary of Harris and Dixon Ltd.), a chemical import and export company. From 1972-1994 he worked for Harris and Dixon Ltd. managing a Koracorp Industries Inc. in San Francisco, USA.
Frances Micklethwait Prize
This prize is awarded to a UG student who shows outstanding performance over the course of the degree and who produces an excellent research project.
External prize nominations
Each year, the Department also nominates selected students for the following awards which are organised by external organisations as European or UK competitions:
Science, Engineering & Technology Student of the Year (SET) Awards
These prestigious awards are sponsored by a panel of International Technology and Science-led companies and judged by representatives of the science and engineering-based professional bodies and associations across Europe. Awards are in several categories, including 'Best Chemistry Student'. We typically nominate three students in their final year who we judge to have performed exceptionally in both their final year research project and in examinations throughout their degree and who also display outstanding communication skills.
Salters Graduate Prize
These prestigious awards are presented by the Salters Institute to Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Students who will ultimately be able to occupy leading positions in the UK Chemical and allied industries. We typically nominate one student in their final year who has extensive industrial placement experience, often as the result of having carried out their final year research project at another University as part of our Chemistry with Research Abroad MSci Degree (F104, F101).