Daniel Crawford, University Distinguished Professor of Chemistry in the Virginia Tech College of Science, has received the Cottrell STAR (Science Teaching and Research) Award for 2023 from the nonprofit Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA).

Cottrell Scholar Awards are named in honor of Frederick Cottrell, a scientist and inventor who founded the RCSA with a distinct devotion to philanthropy in science in 1912. Through Cottrell’s numerous patents, among those contributed by other scientists, RCSA has been able to make grants of more than $150 million to support projects independently proposed by academic scientists.

“Cottrell Scholars are a remarkable community of academic leaders whose contributions to science and society go far beyond their own campuses,” said Daniel Linzer, RCSA president and CEO. “As they have advanced in their careers, these awardees have leveraged their skills and influence toward the greater good.”

Cottrell was declared a "Samaritan of science" by his biographer and was the embodiment of philanthropy to the scientific community. Crawford unquestionably meets that standard through his dedication to discovery in research and his emphasis on education, the RCSA said.

“This is a tremendous honor for me, both personally and professionally, because I have long held so many of the previous recipients in such high regard,” Crawford said.

STAR award recipients must demonstrate outstanding research and educational endeavors that distinguish them as outstanding teacher-scholars who enormously impact their disciplinary field and student learning. STAR Award honorees receive recognition in professional journals and are invited to give a plenary talk at the Cottrell Scholar Conference, which will take place July 19-21 in Tucson, Arizona.

Crawford received the Cottrell Scholar Award, a prerequisite for receiving the STAR Award, in 2003 for work in computational quantum chemistry. He models molecules by computer, a process that helps determine the handedness of molecules isolated from plants and animals and found to have beneficial health effects. Therefore, when a drug is synthesized, it can be made to have the same handedness as the original molecule.

“I was extremely fortunate to be selected for the Cottrell Scholar Award as it places me in excellent company with other Virginia Tech faculty, including Professors Brian Tissue, Paul Deck, and Diego Troya of the Department of Chemistry and Professor Randy Heflin of the Department of Physics who is now the senior associate vice president for research and innovation.”

In addition to his recognition as a Cottrell Scholar, Crawford has received numerous honorifics and achievements for his research and educator efforts. Among those are being named a fellow of the American Chemical Society, winning the Dirac Medal of the World Association of Theoretical and Computational Chemists, and receiving a  National Science Foundation CAREER Award.

Under the direction of Crawford, the Crawford Lab at Virginia Tech focuses on developing state-of-the-art quantum chemical models, particularly many-body methods such as perturbation theory and coupled cluster theory.  The group is among the principal developers of Psi4, an ab initio quantum chemistry package, and are active contributors to Psi4NumPy, an interactive quantum chemistry computing environment.

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