Pat Thiel has been named the 2014 winner of the AVS Medard W. Welch Award, which recognizes outstanding research in the fields of materials, interfaces and processing. Thiel, who is a faculty scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory and a Distinguished Professor of chemistry at Iowa State University, is recognized for her “seminal contributions to the understanding of quasicrystalline surfaces and thin-film nucleation and growth.”
“We congratulate Pat on the Welch Award and for her outstanding contributions to the field of surface chemistry. Pat’s work in understanding the surface structures of complex materials has advanced the understanding of quasicrystals and nanoparticles on metal and semiconductor surfaces,” said Adam Schwartz, director of the Ames Laboratory.
The Welch Award was established in 1969. Thiel is the first woman to win the Welch Award in its 44-year history.
“This award is defined by the people who won it before me. They have been the giants in the field of surface science. I am humbled and honored to be joining their ranks. The award really recognizes much more than me. It recognizes my many talented coworkers and the agencies that have enabled our work, especially the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation,” said Thiel.
“Pat has been a leader at ISU and in surface science for years. We know how outstanding she is here on campus — she is a Distinguished Professor for good reason. It's extremely gratifying to see her outstanding work being recognized by her scientific colleagues around the world as well,” said William Jenks, professor and chair of the ISU Department of Chemistry.
Since 1983, Thiel has been a chemist at Ames Laboratory and faculty member in the Department of Chemistry at Iowa State University. In 2012, she also joined the ISU’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering. She has held several administrative posts at Ames Laboratory and ISU, including Chief Research Officer for the Laboratory, and Chair of the Department of Chemistry for the University, and in each position she has been the first woman to hold that post. Thiel’s research seeks to understand problems in corrosion, lubrication, heterogeneous catalysis and microelectronics by creating simple model surfaces, studying their chemistry on an atomic scale, and using that information to improve materials used in energy applications.
Thiel received a B.A. degree in chemistry at Macalester College, and a Ph.D. in chemistry at the California Institute of Technology in 1981. After postdoctoral work with Gerhard Ertl at the University of Munich as a von Humboldt Fellow, she joined the technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories, Livermore. In her early career at Ames Laboratory and ISU, Thiel received awards from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and a Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation. Later, she was elected a Fellow of the AAAS, AVS, the American Physical Society, the Institute of Physics, and the Materials Research Society. She is also an APS Outstanding Referee.
In 2010, Thiel received both the David Adler Lectureship Award from the APS, and the Arthur W. Adamson Award from the American Chemical Society. She has also been named an Iota Sigma Pi Honorary Member by the National Honor Society for Women in Chemistry. She has been an Invitation Fellow of the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science, has received an honorary degree from the Institut National Polytechnic de Lorraine in France, and has received a DOE Award for Outstanding Scientific Accomplishment in Materials Chemistry. She has served on numerous boards and committees for major organizations, including the NSF, the DOE, the American Chemical Society-Petroleum Research Fund, and National Institutes of Health. An enthusiastic teacher of chemistry, she has received several teaching awards, including the ISU Louis Thompson Distinguished Undergraduate Teacher Award and the Cassling Family Faculty Award for Outstanding Teaching in 2013.
Thiel is an associate editor for the Journal of Chemical Physics, and has been a member of editorial advisory boards for 10 journals. She has organized conferences and symposia within the frameworks of the MRS, APS, ACS, AVS, and the Gordon Research Conferences organizations. She has authored or co-authored approximately 260 publications, and has co-edited four books.
Ames Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science national laboratory operated by Iowa State University. Ames Laboratory creates innovative materials, technologies and energy solutions. We use our expertise, unique capabilities and interdisciplinary collaborations to solve global problems.
DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.