President Barack Obama awarded chemistry professor Allen Bard with the Enrico Fermi Award, a $50,000 prize he will share with Andrew Sessler, director emeritus of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. The award, which honors distinguished research in energy science and technology over the course of a scientist’s career, is given through the U.S. Department of Energy and was announced Monday.
Chemistry professor Jonathan Sessler, whose father won the award alongside Bard, said Bard has made an impression on him since his early days at UT.
“I have admired Al Bard since I first arrived at UT in 1984. He was already famous back then,” Sessler said. “He remains one of my true heroes: a scientist’s scientist.”
Electrochemistry is the combined study of various kinds of energy, chemicals and electrical systems. Bard said electrochemistry is necessary for creating many complex chemicals that are a vital component of many modern devices.
“[Electrochemistry is] used widely to obtain a lot of chemicals that you can’t make because they don’t occur naturally in nature, like chlorine and aluminum,” Bard said. “All the batteries we have today are made through electrochemical systems.”
Chemistry lecturer Sara Sutcliffe, who was a student of Bard’s in the ’90s, said Bard has always been a memorable and thoughtful instructor.
“I took his class called ‘Electronics for Scientists’ and it was a wonderful experience I will never forget,” Sutcliffe said. “He was patient and would take the time to really help you.”
Sutcliffe said she recalls a particular lesson in which Bard wanted to emphasize the importance of caution. According to Sutcliffe, Bard brought a television into class one day, adjusted the television’s wires and then touched one of them with a screwdriver, producing sparks, smoke and a powerful smell.
“He got the reaction out of the class he wanted,” Sutcliffe said.
Chemistry graduate student Michelle Robinson said Bard’s award speaks to the quality of researchers at the University.
“As a graduate student in the department of chemistry, having a recipient of the Enrico Fermi award is very exciting,” Robinson said. “It enhances the reputation of the department.”