Senator John Heinz

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The Heinz Awards

2010

Terrence Collins

An internationally distinguished professor at Carnegie Mellon University's Institute for Green Science, Dr. Terrence Collins is being acknowledged for his pioneering "green chemistry" and for training future generations of scientists.

Dr. Collins developed TAML activators, catalysts that activate hydrogen peroxide to oxidize molecular pollutants and hardy pathogens in water to non-toxic compounds. Tailoring his invention to eliminate a wide variety of pollutants and for disinfection, Dr. Collins is continuing his research while working with partners at the Carnegie Mellon startup company, GreenOx Catalysts, Inc., to commercialize the catalysts for widespread industrial use.

Dr. Collins was the first educator in the United States to teach green chemistry classes starting in the early 1990s. Today, he is considered one of the world's most distinguished university professors in the field of green chemistry. According to Dr. Collins, chemistry is central to all aspects of our lives. It is critical that today's students - tomorrow's leaders - receive an education that enables them to develop a more sustainable world.  Furthermore, it is important that chemistry students bring their unique perspectives to designing safer chemicals and developing chemicals from renewable resources.

Dr. Collins has made priceless contributions to the development of green chemistry and science education. He has pioneered efforts to detoxify hazardous substances, like anthrax, and dangerous pesticides. It is generally accepted that if the still emerging field of green chemistry is going to have the impact required to allow chemists to play a central role in designing a safer, healthier and more sustainable world, the next generation of scientists needs to learn the fundamental framework of green design principles. Dr. Collins' efforts to prepare these young researchers for the challenges ahead will leave a lasting impact on the planet for years to come.

Note: This profile is excerpted from the commemorative brochure published at the time of the awards' presentation.

Speech

11/15/2010 - Acceptance Speech

Teresa, Senator Kerry, Andre and family, Heinz board members and officers, receiving the Heinz Award is an honor beyond compare. Thank you for recognizing our work in green chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University.

Bringing TAML activators to life, understanding how they work, developing the science of their application, particularly the degrading recalcitrant pollutants and beginning commercialization has taken several decades and involved numerous wonderful people.  There are so many, but I have only time to identify a few: first my long-time colleagues and friends, Alexander Ryabov and Colin Horwitz, my superb students, the many Carnegie Mellon officers who have believed in the goals of green chemistry and have supported us, our supporters and especially the Heinz Endowments and most of all, Maureen, Kelly and Greg, my family, who inspire me daily with their support, their good sense and their generosity.  The people you get to know when you work on building a field like green chemistry.  People like Paul Anastas, just amazing.  And when you work to build green chemistry with environmental health sciences, so that we really understand how to design against environmental toxicity, you meet people like Pete Myers, Theo Colborn, Fred vom Saal, Lynn Goldman, who are here tonight as awardees.  These are amazing, remarkable people and it's a great privilege to know and work with them.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Heinz Awards have been highlighting the great importance of sustainability, when so many people in the world appear not to get it. In our time, when the economic needs of the present have become so pressing and our approaches so against the welfare of the future, we can never lose heart.  We must ramp up our efforts to do, in words of the great philosopher Hans Jonas, "save the survival and humanity of man, from the excesses of his own power."

Thank you very, very much indeed.

Terrence Collins
Terrence Collins