Geri Richmond was about to board an airliner Saturday morning in Washington, D.C., to return home to Eugene when she got an email with news from the White House that stunned her: She will receive the National Medal of Science.
"I was really, really stunned, surprised and honored," said Richmond, an internationally renowned chemist who has served as the UO’s Presidential Chair in Science since 2013. "I almost couldn't board the plane because I was jumping for joy."
She also is a U.S. science envoy who focuses on countries along the Mekong River in Southeast Asia: Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.
The National Medal of Science is the highest honor given by the U.S. government to scientists, engineers and inventors. Richmond is the second UO scientist to receive the National Medal of Science. Psychologist Michael Posner won the 2008 award.
“This is a fantastic accomplishment. I am incredibly proud of Professor Geri Richmond,” said UO President Michael Schill. “She continues to stay on the leading edge of research and discovery in ways that impact lives and benefit our greater society. It is wonderful that she is being recognized at the highest level for her innovative research.”
Richmond, a member of the National Science Board and fellow of the National Academy of Sciences, has earned numerous awards for her research. She specializes in chemistry, materials science and chemical reactions that occur on liquid surfaces. She also has served in leadership roles in some of the world’s leading scientific organizations.
She currently is completing her one-year term as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. After her presidential address at the annual AAAS meeting in February, Richmond, who is a fellow of the AAAS, will serve a year as head of the board of directors of the nonprofit organization that promotes scientific advances around the world.
She also is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, where she serves as secretary for the sciences.
A longtime advocate for women in science, Richmond co-founded the Committee on the Advancement of Women Chemists — now widely known by its COACh acronym — to provide mentoring and support to women scientists around the globe.
The National Medal of Science, Richmond said, is a reflection of "a career built in a forest" that includes her long-running relationships with students and strong support from her family.
Richmond has held endowed professorships at the UO since 1998. She earned her doctorate in chemistry at the University of California at Berkeley in 1980 and a bachelor’s in chemistry from Kansas State University in 1975.
For more background on Richmond’s career at the UO, see “Presidential Chair Geri Richmond to serve as U.S. science envoy,” “UO’s Richmond president-elect of AAAS,” “Q&A with new AAAS president-elect Geri Richmond,” “UO’s Richmond appointed presidential chair.”
—By Jim Barlow, Public Affairs Communications