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Office of the Provost

Last modified: Monday, April 20, 2009

Tracy M. Sonneborn Award recipient and Provostís Professor announced

April 20, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University Bloomington Provost Karen Hansen and Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs Tom Gieryn have announced that two Indiana University Bloomington professors will receive prestigious university awards. David E. Clemmer, the Robert and Marjorie Mann Chair of Chemistry, will receive the 2009 Tracy M. Sonneborn Award, and Lisa Pratt, professor of geological sciences, will be named the inaugural Provost's Professor, a new titled appointment previously known as the Chancellor's Professor.

"The work of Professors Clemmer and Pratt represents the level of excellence we strive for each day at Indiana University Bloomington," said Hanson. "Professor Clemmer and Professor Pratt are truly outstanding researchers, and they are dedicated and superbly effective teachers. We are proud to honor them and to claim them as members of the Indiana University community."

Clemmer will give the Sonneborn lecture early in the fall semester 2009, which will be followed immediately by a reception for Pratt and Clemmer.

"The heart of every great university is faculty who excel at both teaching and research," said Gieryn. "Professors Clemmer and Pratt have organized their professional lives so that the discovery of vital new knowledge and mentoring of the next generation of scientists are seamlessly connected. They epitomize what we do best at IU Bloomington."

David E. Clemmer

Colleagues recognize Clemmer's work as being exceptionally creative and of high-impact. As explained by James P. Reilly, chair of chemistry at IU Bloomington, Clemmer's research "integrates fundamental studies of molecular structure, stability, and reactivity in complex, low symmetry systems with an eye toward advancing measurement technologies."

The Clemmer group's invention of ion mobility/time-of-flight mass spectrometry has inspired a number of start-up companies capitalizing on his "vision of how the fundamental physical properties of molecules can lead to widely applicable technologies."

"David is an outstanding researcher and academic with a strong sense of positive thinking and consideration for others. As a professor, he has the ability to encourage and inspire students, helping unlock full potentials for scientific work and paving the way for successful future careers," said Myeong Hee Moon, professor of chemistry at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea.

Many of Clemmer's students have gone on to receive prestigious awards and impressive positions. Former student Catherine A. Srebalus Barnes, now bioproduct research and development adviser at Eli Lilly and Co., said her years of working with Clemmer "continue to influence the decisions I make as a research scientist, supervisor and mentor to others. As a graduate research advisor, Professor Clemmer consistently emphasized the importance of developing a deep scientific expertise rooted in fundamental principles. He dedicated countless hours to sitting down with students to help design experiments, trouble-shoot failed experiments and analyze complex data."

Clemmer's work has attracted substantial attention, earning him numerous awards and honors including The American Chemical Society Findeis Award, the Akron Award and the Biemann Medal. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, the recipient of both the National Science Foundation Special Creativity Award and Early Career Award. Clemmer has won the Pittcon Achievement Award, the Phi Lambda Upsilon National Fresenius Award, the Eli Lilly Analytical Chemistry Award, the Camille Dreyfuss Teacher-Scholar Award, the Teaching Excellence Recognition Award, the Outstanding Junior Faculty Award and the Finnegan Award. He is an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellow and the recipient of the IU Summer Faculty Research Fellowship. Clemmer also has been recognized in MIT's Technology Review as one of the top inventors of the next century and was included on Popular Science magazine's Ten Most Brilliant List in 2002.

Learn more about Clemmer at or the Clemmer Group at

Lisa Pratt

Pratt's research is well known by fellow scientists and scholars. She studies global biogeochemical cycles of carbon and sulfur in sedimentary rocks, focusing on integrated geochemical and microbiological recognition and characterization of biota in extreme environments. Currently, her research concentrates on evidence that can help answer fundamental questions about the origin and extent of life on Earth and the potential for life to exist on Mars.

Pratt "has long been recognized for her important contributions to our understanding of past climatic variations, energy resources and environmental impacts," said Michael A. Arthur, former head of Geosciences at Penn State University. "Her more recent research, however, has many of us rethinking the basis for life in some more extreme Earth environments as well as the possibility of life on other planets."

Martin Goldhaber, senior scientist for the U.S. Geological Survey and president of the Geochemical Society, said that "her current research is visionary!"

Pratt has published extensively in prestigious scientific journals including Nature, Science, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, and Earth and Planetary Science Letters. She regularly includes her students and advisees as co-authors, and often as lead author. This combining of teaching with research demonstrates her strong mentorship and advocacy approach toward her students. This has benefited many who have gone on to faculty positions in major universities or prominent positions in the petroleum industries.

Pratt has taught at all levels in her 20 years at IU. She developed Earth, the Habitable Planet, a popular undergraduate course for non-science majors which has swayed many students to choose geology as a major. Regardless of what undergraduate course Pratt teaches, she integrates her research into the curriculum and, in combination with her enthusiastic manner and expertise, has received consistently high marks from her students.

Pratt is director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute's "Detection of Bio-sustainable Energy and Nutrient Cycling in the Deep Subsurface of Earth and Mars" project, which is funded with a grant of $5 million anchored at Indiana University. With IU's Carl Bauer, the Class of '54 Endowed Professor in the IU Department of Biology, Pratt leads "Life at the Edge of Hydration," funded with an award of $1 million from the Packard Foundation.

She also has received numerous awards and honors including the IU College of Arts and Sciences Alumni Distinguished Faculty Member award and the Office for Women's Affairs IU Distinguished Scholar award. From the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, she has received the Outstanding Educator award, the Distinguished Lecturer award and the Matson Award. Pratt also has been a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar and a National Research Council Post Doctoral Fellow.

Bauer sums up Pratt as "one of the 'Crown Jewels' of Indiana University."

Learn more about Pratt at

About the Sonneborn Award and Provost's Professors

The Sonneborn award was established in 1985 by the Dean of the Faculties office to honor an IU professor who has achieved distinction as a teacher and as a scholar or artist. The award is named for the late Tracy M. Sonneborn, an IU Biologist who distinguished himself in both teaching and research. Sonneborn came to Indiana University in 1939 and became internationally-known for his biological studies specializing in genetics, as one of three leading geneticists in the country. Sonneborn was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of the Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society, and was one of the first three Indiana University faculty members to be granted the title Distinguished Professor.

The Provost's Professorship recognizes faculty who have achieved local, national and international distinction in both teaching and research, and who display fruitful interactions between the two. The awards have been known since their creation in 1995 as Chancellor's Professors. The change in name reflects a recent administrative reorganization on the Bloomington campus. These awards are supported by the generosity of IU Alumni, and over the years only 33 faculty members have earned the title of Chancellor's Professor.

For more information about the lecture or the awards, contact Cyndi Connelley-Eskine, Office for Faculty and Academic Affairs, at or call 812-855-9973. For an application on the Provost's Professors or Tracy M. Sonneborn awards, see