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WSU chemist honored with national leadership medal

PULLMAN, Wash. – Sue Clark, Regents professor at Washington State University, has been awarded the American Chemical Society (ACS) 2012 Garvan-Olin Medal for outstanding leadership in nuclear chemistry and radiochemistry and ongoing efforts to increase the participation and inclusion of women in science.
Clark is internationally known for developing methods to quickly identify radioactive materials in environmental samples and for contributing to the advancement of safe and sustainable nuclear energy development.
In addition to managing a highly productive research lab at WSU and teaching both undergraduate and graduate courses, Clark is an active and widely respected member of the international chemistry community. Over the past decade, she has served on various advisory boards for the National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Council for Chemical Research and other organizations.
Clark is a co-editor for the journal Radiochimica Acta and participates in a consultancy on nuclear forensics training materials for the International Atomic Energy Agency. She frequently is invited to speak at research conferences and has addressed academic audiences from Beijing to West Point.
In July 2011, President Barack Obama appointed her to serve on the U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, which advises Congress on the technical aspects of the management and disposal of the nation’s high-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel.
Curiosity and creativity
Clark is passionate about mentoring and encouraging young scientists from all walks of life to pursue careers in chemistry.
“Traditionally, academic chemistry departments have not reflected the demographic diversity of the students, and that can create barriers, both real and perceived, to women and minorities,” she explained. “We have an opportunity to provide a rich work environment at WSU that fosters curiosity and creativity in the chemical sciences for everyone, regardless of race or gender.”
Previous recipients of the Garvan-Olin medal include notable female scientists from national laboratories, private industry and academia. Clark is the first faculty member at WSU to receive this prestigious award.
While honored, she is quick to point out the collaborative nature of her research and the supportive environment at WSU.
“Dr. Clark is an outstanding researcher, teacher and mentor. In association with the ADVANCE program, she has provided assistance to several female faculty members in science and in engineering at critical points in their careers,” said KW Hipps, chair of the Department of Chemistry
Value of teamwork
This spring, Clark is team-teaching a graduate seminar with fellow radiochemistry professor Ken Nash. According to Clark, they often have more people in class than are on the official roster. One regular visitor is Neil Ivory, a professor in the WSU Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering, who is collaborating with Clark on a nuclear forensic microchip.
“She is a natural leader and a team builder. She knows how to bring together people with complementary skills to address multidimensional, systemic issues,” explained Ivory.
The Garvan-Olin medal is Clark’s second ACS honor in two years. She was elected as a fellow of the society in 2011.
“We are fortunate to have Dr. Clark on the faculty at WSU,” said Daryll DeWald, dean of the College of Sciences. “She is an ideal scientific colleague and her participation in the international chemistry community provides our students with a unique perspective on some of the world’s most complex issues.”
Radiochemistry at WSU
Washington State University is home to a preeminent, internationally recognized academic radiochemistry program. The Department of Chemistry is one of the largest producers of graduates with expertise in radiochemistry in the nation. WSU radiochemistry alums are the backbone of much of the radiochemistry efforts in the nation, ranging from nuclear forensics to environmental stewardship, and advances in the nuclear fuel cycle at the U.S. national laboratories.

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