Jul 272010
Authors: Nick Childs

CSU, once again, broke the top 50 chemistry graduate programs in the country.

The U.S. News and World Report recently ranked CSU’s chemistry graduate program at 45th, tied with Duke University, Boston College and the University of Virginia.

According to the Chemistry Department Chair Ellen Fisher, this achievement is attributed to the national recognition of members within CSU’s chemistry program, which increases the programs “visibility.”

“The program is on an upswing year by year, and I’m thrilled to be here to ride the wave,” said chemistry professor Tomislav Rovis.

CSU has been ranked in the top 50 since the early ‘90s, Fisher said, and she believes that the program will continue to rise and could rank as high as the top 20.

“We could crack the top 40 in the next three to five years,” Fisher said.

In order to do so, she said, the program must continue its focused efforts on increasing the programs visibility within the realm of chemistry.

This includes developing a faculty that is rising in prominence, increasing available resources and continuing to win grants and awards.

The Chemistry Department, Fisher said, currently has approximately $7 million of research equipment, and they continue to try to add to it.

It is difficult to get much higher than that because the programs that rank in the top 10 have been there for a long time and are well established, she said.

Along with the department-wide honor, Roche, a leading pharmaceutical company, recently honored Rovis and doctoral student Daniel DiRocco, showing CSU’s “focused efforts of increased visibility” are not going unnoticed, Fisher said.

Roche honored Rovis and DiRocco for catalytic reaction research. Also recognized was the work of two professors and about a dozen graduate students from various chemistry programs around the country, Rovis said.

This is particularly important to the Chemistry Department, Rovis said, because it’s such a small group of people being recognized, most who were from schools ranked in the top 15 by the U.S. News and World Report.

“Roche has long supported our program, and this is a great recognition. It shows the impact of the works outside of the university,” Fisher said.

With the recognition by Roche, Fisher said, comes an unrestricted grant of approximately $30,000 to be used as Rovis pleases.

“This gives us the latitude to do different things,” he said, adding that with the current funding from the university there is only so much that can be done. Research is more limited, he said.

While the amount of money isn’t as significant, he said, the great part about it is that he doesn’t have to defend why he wants to do certain research; he is allowed more range in the type of research that he can do.

DiRocco’s recognition included a trophy and a cash honorarium, Fisher said.

Rovis, a self-proclaimed “idea man,” set in motion research that led to the building of “tools” that make molecules that may be the basis for treatments of illnesses such as cancer.

The goal, he said, is to be able to manipulate molecules to do exactly what they want in a timely manner.

“Our tools are used to make new compounds to create new drugs faster,” he said.

Rovis received his bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. He then moved on to do his post-doctoral studies at Harvard University and came to CSU in 2000.

The work at Harvard, he said, was essential to his maturation process as a chemist. Harvard’s chemistry department is currently ranked the 4th best program in the nation, according to the U.S. News and World Report.

Rovis is appreciative of honored by Roche, but he gave a lot of credit to DiRocco and his other students.

“Without the student’s passion, (my research) would go nowhere. (DiRocco) is a very, very strong researcher, and this is a very high recognition for him. It is definitely deserved,” Rovis said.

Staff writer Nick Childs can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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