Robert Boeckman, Jr., Professor of Chemistry and chair of the department, was recently named the Marshall D. Gates, Jr., Professor of Chemistry. The position was created to honor the groundbreaking research that Gates conducted during the 1940s and ’50s.

“I feel very honored,”

Boeckman said. “I think Gates was a giant in this field. To be named the first holder of the chair makes me proud. I hope that my work measures up to a similar standard as his.”

Gates’ research became famous after a 1952 breakthrough in creating a synthetic version of morphine. His research was timely, as he sought to create a drug that would have the same effects as morphine without the intensely addictive qualities. Additionally, due to World War II, there were concerns that the United States would not be able to import the opiates used to create morphine.

“Gates was a pioneer in complex molecule synthesis,” Boeckman said. “When that field was in its infancy in the 1940s and 1950s, Gates completed his seminal work with morphine.”

Gates was selected by other leading researchers as the editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a highly respected publication, in recognition of his research. In addition to his research accomplishments, Gates was well known at UR for his teaching abilities. He received the university’s highest undergraduate teaching award in 1967.

When Gates retired in 1981, he was named professor emeritus, and continued to conduct research at the university for many years after. Boeckman joined the UR faculty just a year before Gates retired, but in that short time, the two formed a close connection. Their laboratories were adjacent, so they interacted frequently.

Although their research was not directly related, both Gates and Boeckman studied the field of complex molecule synthesis. Boeckman’s research has produced compounds with the potential to minimize the risk of kidney transplant rejections and to decrease damage caused by spinal cord injuries.

Before his death, Gates was aware of the endowed position created in recognition of his work and knew that it would be awarded to Boeckman. He was planning to take part in the ceremony honoring Boeckman.

“My father had been thrilled about the chair,” Gates’ daughter, Virginia Searl, said in a press release. “He thought Bob Boeckman was the perfect person to receive it.”

Keesing can be reached at jkeesing@campustimes.org.



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