Chemistry and Biochemistry

Dr. Juliana Boerio-Goates Wins Utah Award in Chemistry

Posted: Aug 11, 2010

Dr Juliana Boerio-Goates, 28-year professor at BYU, was presented with the Utah Award in Chemistry by Tom Richmond of the American Chemical Society’s Salt Lake Section Wednesday, August 4 at an awards banquet in Salt Lake City.

The purpose of the award is to “recognize outstanding contributions to the chemical enterprise as reflected by excellence in research, technology, service to the ACS or its sections, and/or chemical education in any field of chemistry (broadly defined), by chemists working in the state of Utah,” the ACS- Salt Lake Section website states. The section established the award in 1958 and has presented it to one qualified nominee every year since.

"It's a prestigious award," Dr. Allen Buskirk, chair of the Central Utah Section of the ACS and BYU professor of biochemistry, said. "All the nominees are outstanding."

Both sections of the ACS in Utah, Central Utah and Salt Lake, work together to determine the recipient. They take turns hosting the awards banquet every year. “This year it was Salt Lake’s turn,” Dr. Buskirk said.

Dr. Boerio-Goates teaches PS100 and courses in physical chemistry at BYU. She also does research in thermodynamics- the study of the energetics of chemical and physical processes. “It has important practical applications- you can make predictions about whether changes in temperature or pressure will allow a chemical process to take place,” Dr. Boerio-Goates said. She has now been a member of the ACS for more than 30 years and is currently a member of the Central Utah Section.

“The measurement of DS (the entropy of pure materials; a thermodynamic property)… currently can be made in only four laboratories in the world, only one of which is in the United States which is Julie’s apparatus at BYU,” said Dr. Brian Woodfield, a fellow BYU professor of physical chemistry and former student of Dr. Boerio-Goates’. “… [Entropy] measurements require highly accurate and precise heat capacity measurements down to near absolute zero and up to temperatures well above room temperature on samples that are highly pure and well characterized. The time required to make these measurements on one sample can be as long as two months. Julie is considered to be the leader in her field.”

Dr. Boerio-Goates attributes her desire to study chemistry to the teachers she had in high school and college. “I had two very good high school chemistry teachers who were a big motivation to me.  Then, my chemistry professors in college were wonderful mentors who encouraged me and continued to provide guidance when I was in graduate school.  I still correspond and visit with the professor who is still alive,” she said.

Chemistry department chair Dr. Paul Farnsworth said about her work: “I think that Dr. Boerio-Goates is motivated primarily by basic curiosity about how the world works more than by any particular application to which her work may be applied.  That being said, her work definitely has some immediate practical implications, particularly her work with nanoparticles.  The nanoparticles promise to be efficient and cost-effective catalysts for chemical reactions.”

By Jessica Henrie