Kevin Smith to Receive 2018 Florida Award of the ACS

Kevin Smith

Professor Kevin Smith, LSU Foundation Distinguished Professor, has been named the recipient of the 2018 Florida Award of the American Chemical Society.  This award was established in 1952 to recognize leadership and contributions toward the advancement of the profession of chemistry.  Nominees must be residents of the Southeastern United States and must have made outstanding contributions to teaching, research, publications or service in advancing the profession.

2018 Florida Award of the ACS 

Professor Smith began his long and distinguished career at the University of Liverpool as a Lecturer (1969-1977) and continued at the University of California Davis, from 1977 to 2001, where he maintained a large research group and served a number of administrative roles, including Department Chair and Vice Chancellor for Research.  He came to Louisiana State University in August 2001 as Vice Chancellor for Research and Dean of the Graduate School.  He held that position until 2005 and, throughout his time at LSU, he has been the LSU Foundation James C. Bolton Distinguished Professor. 

Professor Smith is an outstanding researcher, with 783 publications to-date and an h-index of 75.  His expertise is in organic and bioorganic chemistry;  his name is synonymous with the field of porphyrin chemistry.  One of his colleagues, also a leader in porphyrin chemistry, stated “Prof. Smith is the best porphyrin chemist alive and richly deserving of this high honor.  He has been a leader, teacher, mentor, and inspiration for all of us who work in the field.”  In recognition of these accomplishments, he received the Robert B. Woodward Lifetime Achievement Award in Porphyrin Chemistry (ICPP-4, Rome, Italy, 2006) and the Alfred Bader Award in Bioinorganic or Bioorganic Chemistry (ACS National Meeting, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2009). In 2014, he was honored at the 8th International Conference in Porphyrins and Phthalocyanines (ICPP-8) in Istanbul, Turkey, for his contributions over the past 50 years as a teacher, mentor and researcher, with a two-day symposium and dinner organized and attended by over 100 of his former and current mentees.

Kevin Smith Faculty Page

Many of Kevin’s key contributions have involved engineering complex members of the porphyrin family of compounds to probe their biosynthesis and important roles in nature and medicine.  From a superb knowledge of organic chemistry, he has delivered methods to assemble porphyrins with considerable variation in substituents, including isotopic labeling, and deviations from planarity, plus the ability to fine-tune each quadrant of the macrocycle once assembled.  Collaborations across the world have led to such seminal advances as porphyrins functionalized for photodynamic therapy and the currently accepted model for heme protein catabolism.  For more than three decades, he had continuous funding from NIH and/or NSF.

Since stepping back from administration 12 years ago, Kevin has been further engaged in his NIH-funded porphyrin research program, and has enjoyed teaching organic chemistry to thousands of LSU undergraduates.  Places in his honors class are highly sought-after;  there is always a wait list.  In 2016, Kevin received the Tiger Athletic Foundation Undergraduate Teaching Award that recognizes faculty for extraordinary classroom teaching and substantial contributions to the profession of teaching and mentoring students.  Over the course of his career, Kevin has mentored 110 PhD students and more than 50 postdoctoral associates. 

Despite the “Southeastern” criterion for eligibility, only two other LSU faculty have previously received the Florida Award:  Emeritus Boyd Professor Sean McGlynn (1970) and Professor Mary Good (1979).  We might also claim Emeritus Professor George Newkome (1991) who was a member of our Department from 1966-86 and became an Emeritus Professor when he moved on.

Kevin’s award will be celebrated at the 94th Florida Annual Meeting and Exposition (FAME), to be held at the Innisbrook Resort in Tampa from May 3-5.  There will be a symposium that reflects his research interests.  This is a fitting acknowledgment of a distinguished career characterized by research in porphyrin chemistry, teaching organic chemistry to thousands and to administrative and professional leadership.