back to awards

Claudia Turro

Distinguished Scholar Award, 2017

Claudia Turro, the Dow Professor in Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, is a 2017 recipient of the Distinguished Scholar Award. Turro is a pioneer in designing new molecules that can be activated with light. Their significant applications to both medicine and the environment are wide-ranging, game-changers in the areas of medical therapy and diagnostics—and sustainable energy and the environment.

Turro has discovered new compounds that not only kill cancer cells, but inhibit tumor metastasis and turn on a beacon that signals exactly where the cancer is located. Not only that, these compounds, activated by low-light energy, can be modified to deliver inhibitors to target uncontrolled growth and cell proliferation—and can be tailored for specific types of cancer.

New state-of-the-art ultrafast spectroscopy has made it possible for Turro to gain a deeper understanding of the fundamental processes that take place after a metal-containing molecule absorbs light. These new insights have led to the ability to design new molecules that, when exposed to light, could exhibit two—or more—outputs simultaneously, essentially creating the first "drug cocktail," or "dual-action," metal-containing drugs. This alone is a remarkable achievement; but Turro additionally discovered new materials that are able to efficiently generate hydrogen—a clean fuel—from water.

As one colleague said, “Professor Turro’s contributions to the understanding of photo-induced processes of inorganic complexes is crucial to the fields of solar energy conversion, sensors and photo-chemotherapy. And, she is a compelling role model for all aspiring scientists.”

In both lab and classroom, Turro teaches, mentors and inspires students at all levels. Especially fortunate are the graduate students and postdocs who have the opportunity to work with this pioneer in her field on novel, ground-breaking projects.  

Not surprisingly, Turro has received several top national research awards and has been honored for her outstanding mentoring and diversity efforts.

She has published 144 articles in major, peer-reviewed journals. Her high-impact work is supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Energy.