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Doug Stephan
(Photo by Camilla Pucholt)

Douglas Stephan receives Killam Prize in natural sciences

February 3, 2021

University Professor Douglas Stephan of the University of Toronto's department of chemistry in the Faculty of Arts & Science is one of this year’s Killam Prize winners

Presented by the Canada Council for the Arts, the awards recognize select Canadian researchers who have achieved international scholarly eminence in their fields.

Stephan’s discovery of frustrated Lewis pairs (FLP) is internationally recognized for its wide-ranging impact on nearly every aspect of chemistry research, particularly in the context of drug development, chemical production, renewable energy and sustainability. 

“The chemical concept of frustrated Lewis pairs is actually quite simple,” said Stephan. “It’s unexpected and surprising, but remarkably simple. It is this simplicity that provides implications across the discipline permitting developments in organic synthesis, materials and polymer chemistry as well as catalysis.” 

The recipient of the 2019 John C. Polanyi Award, the 2019 E.W.R. Steacie Award and a 2020 Guggenheim Fellowship, Stephan also received a Killam Research Fellowship in 2009.

“The underlying theory of Lewis acid-base pairs, in which a Lewis acid interacts with a Lewis base, is considered to be a central concept of chemistry,” said Rob Batey, professor and chair of the department of chemistry. “It’s essential for the understanding of chemical reactivity and bonding, and as such it is taught at the high school level and beyond.”

Previous Killam Prize winners at U of T include University Professors John Polanyi and Paul Brumer of the department of chemistry, as well as University Professors Barbara Sherwood Lollar of Earth sciences and Molly Shoichet of the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, both of whom are affiliated with the department of chemistry.

“Looking at the list of previous winners, I am humbled to have our work included with the work of such exceptional people,” Stephan said. “I am also so very grateful to my colleagues who have been so gracious in supporting me.” 

Read the Faculty of Arts & Science story