The University of Western Australia's highly cited Head of School of Chemistry and Biochemistry Winthrop Professor Mark Spackman has been awarded the prestigious Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (RSAS) 2013 Gregori Aminoff Prize in Crystallography.
The first Australian to receive the Nobel Academy's honour, Professor Spackman shares the award with Carlo Gatti from the Italian National Research Council: "For developing experimental and theoretical methods to study electron density in crystals, and using them to determine molecular and crystalline properties".
The first member of his family to attend university, Professor Spackman first became interested in chemistry when he attended Napier Boys' High School on New Zealand's North Island and finished his final years of secondary education at Tuart Hill Senior High School.
The RSAS recognised Professor Spackman's work, over the last 15 years, on developing novel ways of looking at intermolecular interactions in crystals (what holds molecules together in crystals).
More broadly, Professor Spackman's work can be described as crystal engineering, which aims to understand how molecules interact to form crystals with a view to making materials with predictable optical, electronic and magnetic properties. Materials in common use that have been produced as a result of research of this kind include most modern electronic devices such as mobile phones and computers.
Professor Spackman's work with colleagues at UWA has also led to the development of the CrystalExplorer software, now used by researchers across the world to analyse crystal structures.
"It is an incredible honour to be recognised in this manner, but especially wonderful to share it with such a great friend and colleague. Given the novelty of our research, it is also a testament to the importance of perseverance in scientific research, and belief in the worth of what you do, even if you struggle to attract funding for very many years," he said.
Although the Aminoff Laureates are yet to publish together, they are both international partners in the Danish National Research Foundation funded Center for Materials Crystallography at the University of Aarhus.
The 273 year-old Swedish Academy's recognition of Professor Spackman's work follows a strong crystallographic tradition at UWA, which included the 1995 Aminoff Prize awarded to Hugo Rietveld, one of the most prominent crystallographers of the 20th century who holds a physics PhD from UWA.
Both Professors Spackman and Rietveld studied with the late UWA Physics Professor Ted Maslen - Rietveld in the 1960s and Spackman, most notably as a postdoctoral fellow at UWA from 1984 to 85.
"So you could say that the strong crystallographic tradition at UWA, fostered over several decades by people like Ted Maslen, Allan White and Syd Hall, has contributed strongly to two of these prizes," Professor Spackman said.
The Gregori Aminoff Prize will be awarded by Sweden's King Carl Gustav at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences' Annual Meeting on 5 April 2013.
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