Purdue professor elected to National Academy of Sciences

May 2, 2013  

Joseph Francisco

Joseph Francisco (Image courtesy of Peter Cutts Photography) 
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University professor has been elected into the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors given to a scientist or engineer in the United States.

Joseph S. Francisco, the William E. Moore Distinguished Professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and Chemistry, will be inducted into the academy next April during its annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

"Election to membership in the National Academy of Sciences is one of the most prestigious distinctions that can be bestowed on a scientist, and it is an honor not only for Dr. Francisco, but also for the College of Science and Purdue," said President Mitch Daniels. "It is a well-deserved honor for Dr. Francisco, who has made his mark through revolutionary research, tireless service to the field through leadership of important scientific societies and mentorship to the next generation of talented scientists."

Francisco, who also is the associate dean of research and graduate education for the College of Science, was elected to the academy in recognition of his distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

His research has revolutionized the understanding of chemical processes in the atmosphere and its ability to break down and remove pollutants. He solved a 40-year search for an unusual molecule that is essential to the atmosphere's ability to break down nitric acid, a compound that causes acid rain. He also mapped the atmospheric breakdown of chlorofluorocarbons, chemical compounds that destroy the Earth's ozone layer, and leads research into the design of environmentally benign materials to replace these harmful compounds.

His recent work focuses on understanding the effect of water on fundamental chemical reactions in the atmosphere. Francisco discovered that clouds significantly affect levels of important atmospheric free radicals and identified a new type of chemical bonding, radical-hydrogen bonding.

Francisco co-authored the textbook "Chemical Kinetics and Dynamics," published by Prentice-Hall, and has published more than 450 peer-reviewed publications in the fields of atmospheric chemistry, chemical kinetics, quantum chemistry, laser photochemistry and spectroscopy.

Francisco is a past president of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society, and served as president of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, one of the nation's oldest and most prestigious honorary societies, and is a fellow of the American Physical Society, American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Chemical Society. He has received four honorary doctorates from other universities.

President Barack Obama appointed Francisco as a member of the President's Committee on the National Medal of Science in 2010 and reappointed him this year. This committee is responsible for evaluating nominees and selecting recipients of the National Medal of Science, the highest honor awarded by the U.S. government to scientists, engineers and innovators. He also currently serves on the National Research Council Board of Science Education.

Francisco earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1977 and his doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1983. He served as a postdoctoral research fellow at Cambridge University from 1983-1985 and was a provost postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1985. He served on the faculty of Wayne State University, Michigan, and as a research scientist at Caltech and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena before coming to Purdue in 1995.

Francisco is among 84 new members and 21 foreign associates elected to the academy this year. Francisco joins three Purdue colleagues as current members of the academy. Those previously elected are H. Jay Melosh, distinguished professor of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences and physics; Michael Rossmann, the Hanley Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences; and Jian-Kang Zhu, distinguished professor of plant biology. 

Francisco is the second faculty member from Purdue's Department of Chemistry to be elected to the academy. The late Nobel laureate Herbert C. Brown was elected in 1957.

Francisco also becomes the second African-American inducted into the academy from the field of chemistry. Percy Julian was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1973.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to furthering science and technology and their use for the general welfare. Established by an Act of Congress, signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, the academy is charged with providing independent, objective advice to the nation on matters related to science and technology.

Among the academy's renowned members are Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Thomas Edison, Orville Wright and Alexander Graham Bell.  Nearly 200 living academy members have won Nobel Prizes.

There are currently 2,179 active members and 437 foreign associates. Foreign associates are nonvoting members of the academy, with citizenship outside the United States. For more information, or for the full list of newly elected members, visit http://www.nationalacademies.org

Writer: Elizabeth K. Gardner, 765-494-2081, ekgardner@purdue.edu 

Sources: Mitch Daniels, president@purdue.edu

Joseph Francisco, 765-494-0239, francisc@purdue.edu 

Related information: 
National Academies' news release 

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