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Professor Sylvia T. Ceyer of the Department of Chemistry has been named the second holder of the John C. Sheehan Chair, succeeding Professor JoAnne Stubbe.
The Sheehan Chair Professorship, one of the highest honors that can be awarded to an MIT faculty member, was established in 1992 to honor the late Professor Sheehan, a member of the chemistry department starting in 1946 and remembered internationally for the first useful synthesis of penicillin.
Professor Ceyer, a 1974 summa cum laude graduate of Hope College, received the PhD from the University of California at Berkeley in 1979 and joined the MIT chemistry department in 1981 after working at the National Bureau of Standards as a postdoctoral fellow.
A major emphasis of her research in physical chemistry is to understand the differences between surface chemistry observed under the low-pressure, ultra-high-vacuum conditions of a surface science laboratory and that observed in the high-pressure, practical environment of heterogeneous catalysis or plasma etching. Her work has resulted in the observation of several new mechanisms for surface reactions such as chemistry with a hammer, hydrogenation by bulk hydrogen and atom abstraction. Her internationally recognized research also focuses on the conversion of natural gas to usable fuels.
Professor Ceyer has received numerous awards and honors including the first W.M. Keck Foundation Professorship in energy since 1991; the Class of 1943 Career Development Chair, 1985-1988; the Harold E. Edgerton Award and the Baker Memorial Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 1988; the 1988 Young Scholar Award from the American Association of University Women; the Nobel Laureate Signature Award for Graduate Education from the American Chemical Society, and the School of Science Teaching Prize.
She has held several named lectureships including the Langmuir Lecturer of the American Chemical Society and a Welch Foundation Lectureship, and she is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Physical Society.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on July 24, 1996.