Aurora Clark named ACS Fellow

Aurora ClarkAurora Clark, a WSU professor of chemistry, has been named a Fellow of the American Chemical Society.

Clark received the prestigious award for her service to the nuclear/inorganic and computational chemistry communities and for her innovative research, including the pioneering use of computer algorithms and network analysis to understand the behavior of complex solutions and their interfaces.

She will be recognized at a ceremony and reception on Aug. 21, during the society’s 254th National Meeting & Exposition in Washington, D.C.

The American Chemical Society (ACS) is the world’s largest scientific society with 157,000 members internationally. Its Fellows Program honors members for outstanding achievements in and contributions to science, the profession and society. Less than 0.7 percent of the society’s total membership are currently fellows.

“I am tremendously grateful that my peers value what I do,” Clark said.

“Aurora has maintained a very active, well-funded research group for some time now, and it’s very gratifying to see her obtain this well-deserved recognition,” said Kirk Peterson, WSU chemistry chair and professor. “The energy and creativity she brings to all her endeavors, particularly her research and teaching, has made her an invaluable resource to the Department and the University.”

Distinguished career

Clark joined the WSU faculty in 2005. Her research investigating solutions under extreme conditions and mechanisms for separating complex mixtures of chemical compounds is helping to expedite cleanup efforts of Hanford and other sites contaminated with nuclear waste.

In 2012, she began utilizing network analyses, employed by internet giants like Google, to study how molecules in solution interact with one another. Her work elucidating the networks of molecular interactions in liquids informs new data-mining methods for revealing molecular shapes, motions and pathways for previously unknown chemical reactions.

“Robust data exploration is a longstanding problem in the computational chemistry community,” Clark said. “If we don’t know what to look for in the data, how will we find it? Our methods help overcome this problem.”

Clark is the director of the Center for Institutional Research Computing and the Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology at WSU. She previously led the ACS’ Inland Northwest efforts to create educational and professional opportunities for early career chemists.

In addition to her research, Clark teaches introductory and upper-division chemistry courses and supervises undergraduate and graduate student researchers.

“It’s very satisfying when I can help a student become excited about science,” Clark said. “I feel a strong sense of responsibility for helping students begin their adult lives as compassionate, thoughtful and creative thinkers.”

Clark earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry at Indiana University in 2003 and a B.S. in chemistry at Central Washington University in 1999. She is the third female chemistry professor at WSU to be honored as an ACS Fellow, and the eighth chemistry faculty member to receive this recognition.

The WSU Department of Chemistry now has more ACS Fellows than eight of WSU’s nine peer institutions, as well as the University of Washington or Yale University.


— By Will Ferguson, College of Arts and Sciences