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Visiting Professor Yang Peidong Receives MacArthur ‘Genius Award’

UC Berkeley chemist Yang Peidong who is also a Visiting Professor at NTNU has been named a MacArthur “genius” Fellow for his effort trying to capture carbon dioxide from the air and turn it into a sustainable transportation fuel. Yang will stay in NTNU from this January to next December doing research in the Department of Chemistry. He was invited to be the speaker of the forum of Recent Progress on Nanomaterials Research held by the Department of Chemistry this June.

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced its 24 new 2015 fellows on Sept. 28, all of whom will receive $625,000 to use in any way they wish. These award winners are from America, Canada and Ghana.

Yang was born in Suzhou, China, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei in 1993 and received a Ph. D. in chemistry from Harvard University in 1997. After a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at UC Santa Barbara, he joined the UC Berkeley College of Chemistry as an assistant professor in 1999.

For Yang, the award came totally out of the blue, since he assumed that “genius grant” winners typically got the award “at a very, very early stage in their career, at the assistant professor stage,” he said. “It was a total surprise.”

He is currently involved in a large effort to develop a synthetic leaf that uses the principles of photosynthesis, whereby green plants capture light to turn carbon dioxide and water into sugars, to instead make useful chemicals, including fuels such as butane and methane.

In 2011, Yang was selected by Thomson Reuters as the 10th powerful chemist in the world. He is also ranked as the top materials scientist in the world. In 2014, Yang was awarded as a Thomson Reuters Citation Laureate and is considered to be a potential Nobel Laurate.