Three faculty from the University of Delaware were named Fellows of the American Chemical Society in 2023: (from left) Wilfred Chen, LaShanda Korley and Mary Watson.



Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson and Evan Krape | Photo illustration by Joy Smoker |


Wilfred Chen, LaShanda Korley and Mary Watson were named as 2023 Fellows of the American Chemical Society

Wilfred Chen and LaShanda Korley from the University of Delaware’s College of Engineering and Mary P. Watson from the College of Arts and Sciences have been named as 2023 Fellows of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Wilfred Chen, the Gore Professor of Chemical Engineering in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, was recognized for “pioneering contributions to synthetic biology, environmental biotechnology and biosensing through dynamic tuning of cellular phenotypes, creation of synthetic scaffolds for biosynthesis, and of modular protein nanocarriers for cancer therapeutics.”

The Wilfred Chen Group develops tools for synthetic biology, protein engineering and drug delivery. By studying and exploiting the modular nature of proteins, their goal is to design and create new complexes that can support advances in applications such as biocatalysis, biosensing and therapeutics for cancer. Chen has authored more than 250 peer-reviewed studies that collectively have more than 20,000 citations.

Chen is also a member of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) 2022 College of Fellows, received the Food, Pharmaceutical and Bioengineering Division Award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) in 2018, the ACS Marvin J. Johnson Award in Microbial and Biochemical Technology in 2017, and the AIChE/Society for Biological Engineering Daniel I.C. Wang Award for Excellence in Biochemical Engineering in 2015.

Along with his scientific contributions, Chen was recognized for his “invaluable service to the ACS BIOT community by serving as the ACS Division of Biochemical Technology (BIOT) program chair in 2007 and organizing several other technical sessions in BIOT programming over the years.”

“This is truly an honor to be recognized for all the work you put in over the last three decades,” said Chen, who has been a member of ACS for over 30 years, about being recognized as a Fellow.

LaShanda Korley, a Distinguished Professor of Engineering who holds appointments in the departments of Materials Science and Engineering and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, was recognized for “innovative and fundamental investigations utilizing architectural design and manufacturing techniques enabled by materials chemistry and engineering to develop functional, responsive, adaptable polymeric materials for sustainability, healthcare, and soft robotics.”

Through its interdisciplinary focus, the Korley Research Group is working on unique needs that reach across the plastics value chain, from synthetic design and manufacturing processes to life cycle management, using a bioeconomic framework rooted in bio-inspired approaches and sustainability principles. Korley is also the director of UD’s Center for Plastics Innovation and the co-director of the Center for Hybrid, Active, and Responsive Materials.

Korley is also a 2023 U.S. Science Envoy, a 2022 American Physics Society Fellow, a 2022 ACS Division of Polymer Materials Science and Engineering Fellow, a recipient of the 2021 AIChE Minority Affairs Committee Gerry Lessells Award, was named a 2020 American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering Fellow, and received the 2019 National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers Lloyd N. Ferguson Young Scientist Award.

Along with her scientific contributions, Korley was also recognized for “developing programming for engaging diverse scholars, building an inclusive community within the chemical science through mentor service in the ACS Scholars program and engagement in the ACS Division of Polymer Materials: Science and Engineering.”

Korley first interacted with the Society as an ACS Scholar during her undergraduate career. Later, she served as an ACS Scholar mentor and supported mentor-mentee relationship building activities. Korley credited her involvement in this program, as well as mentorship she received from other ACS members, as crucial for her own career.

“I am honored by this recognition,” Korley said about being named an ACS Fellow. “To come full circle from ACS Scholar to being named an ACS Fellow highlights the impact of mentoring, inclusivity, and strategic partnerships in one’s career trajectory.”

Mary P. Watson, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, was recognized for her contributions to science for the “methodology for Ni catalyzed cross-coupling of alcohols and amines; major innovations include reagents and methods for constructing complex C(sp3) bonds using inexpensive substrates, non-traditional electrophiles, and earth-abundant catalysts.”

An organic chemist, Watson’s research group focuses on catalysts — substances that enable a reaction to occur but are not changed by it — to produce reactions that can create complex organic molecules. In 2017, her lab published a groundbreaking discovery with a chemical tool known as deaminative cross-coupling reactions. In cross-coupling reactions two fragments are joined to form new bonds, often between carbon atoms. In the deaminative type of cross-coupling reactions, chemists use amines, which are substances that contain nitrogen atoms. Before the lab’s discovery, deaminative reactions were rare and limited in use because chemists thought alkyl amines were inert, but interest has dramatically increased in the last six years, especially among chemists working with pharmaceuticals. More than 15 papers have been published on the reactions, and Watson, in collaboration with researchers at Merck and Co., published a paper in February expanding on her earlier work in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

In addition to her research, Watson was also recognized for her contributions to the ACS community that help shape the field of chemistry, specifically her “transformative vision and leadership within and beyond the organic chemistry community” including her work as co-founder and co-organizer of the Empowering Women in Organic Chemistryconference.

This is Watson’s second ACS honor this year. In March she received the Catalysis Lectureship for the Advancement of Catalytic Science. The prestigious award recognizes a recent, specific, distinctive, creative, and impactful contribution to catalysis science.

“For me, the ACS is the very definition of the chemistry community, so I’m incredibly grateful to be recognized for my contributions to both chemistry and service to our community. It is wonderful to feel the support of my peers,” she said.

About the ACS Fellows Program

The ACS Fellows Program was created in 2008 to recognize members of ACS for outstanding achievements in and contributions to science, the profession and the Society. The Class of 2023 ACS Fellows includes 42 of the Society’s members, who will be honored at a special ceremony during ACS Fall 2023 in San Francisco.

Other UD faculty and emeritus faculty who have been named ACS fellows include Michael Klein and Eleftherios (Terry) Papoutsakis (2011), the late Herbert Allen (2013), Eric Furst and Kristi Kiick (2014), Karl Booksh, George Luther and David Martin (2015), Michael Stemniski (2016), the late Burnaby Munson (2018), and Thomas H. Epps, III (2021).