Brent Shanks Receives Inaugural Great Plains Catalysis Society Award

The 2019 Great Plains Catalysis Society Award is presented to Professor Brent Shanks, Iowa State University’s Anson Marston Distinguished Professor in Engineering, Mike and Jean Steffenson Chair, and Director of the NSF Engineering Research Center for Biorenewable Chemicals (CBiRC). Dr. Shanks is a visionary in the development of new materials to bridge the gap between biological catalysis and heterogeneous catalysis. His accomplishments include the creation of new paradigms for the conversion of biomass-derived sugars to higher-value chemicals by combining biological and heterogeneous catalytic pathways. In particular, his identification of triacetic acid lactone (TAL) as a building block molecule; his elegantly combined methods to elucidate catalytic paths, the nature of the active sites and the effects of solvent in the catalytic conversion of biorenewable feedstock to chemicals to aid rational design of better catalysts; and his great contributions to the list of one hundred bioprivileged molecule candidates have significantly influenced current and future biorenewable research in the heterogeneous catalysis community. Dr. Shanks has also leveraged these scientific successes as an entrepreneur, holding several patents and co-founding three biorenewables-based startup companies. In addition to his own scientific accomplishments, he has served as a driving force behind the success of CBiRC for the past decade and catalyzed the further successes of those who have the privilege of working with him, including his 34 graduate students and 15 postdocs and visiting scientists. Dr. Shanks’s accomplishments as a scientist, entrepreneur, educator, and organizational leader epitomize the spirit of the Great Plains Catalysis Society Award, making him an exemplary honoree to serve as the inaugural Award winner.