UT professors win Torbern Bergman Medal


Allen Bard, University of Texas at Austin chemistry professor.  

Photo Credit: Marsha Miller | Daily Texan Staff

Chemical engineering research professor Adam Heller and chemistry professor Allen Bard received the Torbern Bergman Medal from the Analytical Division of the Swedish Chemical Society on June 9.

The society, which presented the medal to professors in Stockholm, has awarded it every two years since 1967 for important contributions to the field of analytical chemistry.

Heller received the medal for developing technology that helps measure the glucose level in the blood of diabetics, according to the society.

While at the University, Heller said he and his son Ephraim built the first continuous glucose meter that could be implanted under the skin. This process became a key technological centerpiece of the FreeStyle Navigator, a system designed to more accurately measure the glucose level of diabetics. The FreeStyle requires a very small amount of blood to monitor glucose levels and is therefore painless, according to Thomas Truskett, chemical engineering department chair.

“The important part is that diabetic patients comply with the painless and convenient therapies enabled by Heller’s discoveries, extending (and improving the quality of) their lives,” Truskett said in an email.

Heller was also fundamental in developing one of the first lithium batteries, which were later used in medical and defense systems, solar cells and hydrogen photoelectrodes.

Bard, who has taught at the University since 1958, received the award for his work in electrochemistry, which ranges from imaging single cell reactions to fundamental charge transfers, according to the society.

“It is very nice to be recognized for one’s research, especially by scientists in another country, so the award is much appreciated,” Bard said.

According to Bard, his most significant contribution is the development of electrogenerated chemiluminescence, a process in which light is produced electrochemically. This method has a wide range of medical applications, including detecting the presence of HIV.

Heller said he was honored to receive the medal alongside Bard.

“Al and I are dear friends (we have known each other for about 40 years) and it gives me special and great joy to share with Al the medal,” Heller said in an email.

Robert Villwock, associate director of the Center for Electrochemistry, said both professors carried out their research at the University.

“We’re very proud to have two of our distinguished scientists from the Center for Electrochemistry recognized internationally for their lifelong contributions to the advancement of science,” Villwock said in an email. “Much of the work for which they have been honored took place here at The University of Texas at Austin.”