Marcetta Y. Darensbourg

Marcetta Darensbourg

Marcetta Y. Darensbourg is the recipient of the 2020 Sigma Xi William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement. The Procter prize has been awarded since 1950 to a scientist who has made an outstanding contribution to scientific research and has demonstrated an ability to communicate the significance of this research to scientists in other disciplines. She will give a plenary lecture at the Sigma Xi Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference.

Darensbourg receives the prize for significant contributions to bioinorganic chemistry from her work on chemistry of the diiron hydrogenases.

She is a native of Knox County, Kentucky, USA, with a PhD from the University of Illinois. Following academic posts at Vassar College and Tulane University, she joined the faculty at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, in 1982. She holds the title of Distinguished Professor of Chemistry. 

Trained as an organometallic chemist in the laboratories of Professors Theodore L. Brown and Earl Muetterties (Cornell), and with initial independent research in low valent transition metal carbonyls and hydrides, she perceived the possibility of metal hydrides in nature, specifically as intermediates in hydrogenase enzymes—experiencing delight when small organo-iron fragments were definitively characterized within them. Such inspiration lured her further into an emerging field of bioorganometallic chemistry, ripe for integrating insights from homogeneous catalysis and metalloenzymes. 

She has led in the development of synthetic analogues of the diiron hydrogenase active site and the insight they bring to the catalytic mechanism of such natural fuel cell catalysts. Metalloenzyme active sites that catalyze carbon-carbon coupling reactions but use abundant metals such as nickel also inspire her research activities. Fundamental studies of nitric oxide in combination with iron overlap into medicinal applications.

She was an inaugural, 2009, Fellow of the American Chemical Society. Darensbourg was also elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011, to the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2014, and to the National Academy of Sciences in 2017. She has received awards such as the Willard Gibbs Medal, the American Chemical Society Award for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry, the J.C. Bailar Lectureship and F. Basolo Award, and she was the 2018 SEC Professor of the Year.