Chemistry and Biochemistry

Chemist Recognized for Career of Outstanding Research

Posted: Sep 23, 2011

BYU chemistry professor Milton Lee received notice in September that he will receive a national award next year from the American Chemical Society (ACS), bringing recognition to BYU and better opportunities for its students.

Dr. Lee has been an analytical chemist at BYU for over 35 years. The ACS is recognizing his work with next year’s national Award in Separations Science and Technology.

Lee’s work has focused on developing instrumentation and methods for analyzing chemicals in a given sample. He said most people outside the area of analytical chemistry don’t know what kind of work he’s doing, so recognition at a national level brings valuable attention to his work and BYU.

“It’s nice to receive, in particular, a national award because that tells people that there’s quality research being done at BYU,” he said.

Awards like this one not only bring recognition to BYU and the faculty member, but also help students during their studies and as they go out into the job market.

“If BYU is known to do good research, then it’s easier for faculty members to get grants. If professors have grants, then they can hire students to work on research projects, and that supports them while they go to school,” Lee said. “It has lots of ramifications that are beneficial.”

During his time at BYU, Lee has been able to employ students in a broad variety of chemical analysis research projects. Analyzing everything from environmental pollutants to cancer causing chemicals, Lee and his students are making the separations and analysis process faster and more accurate.

Most recently, they have been working on detecting toxic chemicals and bacteria in air and water, or on surfaces. The samples are pushed through a tiny capillary tube with a chemical coating on the inside walls of the tube. Some chemicals “stick” to the walls more than others, separating them before they reach the end of the tube for chemical analysis.

Two former chemistry professors at BYU have received this same award in the past, Jerald S. Bradshaw and Reed M. Izatt. The ACS includes professionals and academics in Canada and the United States and is the largest chemical society in the world.

By Erik Westesen, College of physical and Mathematical Sciences

Photos by Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo, Jessica Henrie

NOTE: Recently, Dr. Lee was surprised by his former students who organized a scientific symposium in honor of his 65th birthday. The symposium took place on September 9 and 10 in the Hinckley Alumni and Visitors' Center. Attendees enjoyed scientific presentations, a poster session, tours, a banquet and a picnic.