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Cyndi Connelley-Eskine
Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs

Nancy Webber
Office of the Provost

Last modified: Tuesday, September 29, 2009

IU professors Clemmer and Pratt to be honored at Sonneborn Lecture and Provost's Professor event

Sept. 29, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- David E. Clemmer, the Robert and Marjorie Mann Chair of Chemistry at Indiana University Bloomington and the 2009 recipient of the prestigious Tracy M. Sonneborn Award at IU, and Lisa Pratt, IU professor of geological sciences and the inaugural IU Provost's Professor, will be recognized at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 8 (Thursday), in the Indiana Memorial Union's Frangipani Room.

Clemmer will present the Sonneborn Lecture, "Measurements for the Masses," shortly after 5:30 p.m. The lecture and a reception afterward are free and open to the public.

Clemmer's lecture will provide a brief history of how measurements of mass evolved and impacted the fields of physics and chemistry.

"Near the turn of the 20th century a small group of physicists were grappling with understanding positive rays of electricity," said Clemmer in a written description of his lecture. "Many of the ideas that emerged at this time were based on a new type of measurement -- the determination of particles' mass-to-charge ratios in an instrument called a mass spectrometer. Advances in these measurements led mass spectrometers to be used widely across the petroleum and chemical industries."

Measurements of mass are now positioned to provide key information in the fields of biology and medicine, Clemmer continued. "As we move into the 21st century, mass measurements are beginning to replace more traditional methods for biology. With modern biotechnologies and computational infrastructure it is now possible to begin understanding whole organisms as complex systems of molecules."

David E. Clemmer

Clemmer was selected as the Sonneborn recipient due to his exceptionally creative and high-impact research. According to James P. Reilly, chair of chemistry at Indiana University 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 the ion mobility/time-of-flight mass spectrometry has inspired a number of start-up companies capitalizing on Clemmer's vision of how the fundamental physical properties of molecules can lead to widely applicable technologies.

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," writes 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, states that "her current research is visionary!"

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 beneficial interactions between the two. Previously known as the Chancellor's Professor award since its creation in 1995, the award was renamed to reflect 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.

Learn more about Clemmer at or the Clemmer Group at Learn more about Pratt at

For more information about the lecture or induction ceremony, contact Cyndi Connelley-Eskine, Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs, at or call 812-855-9973.