Following his retirement in 1993, Reed Izatt has never stopped learning and contributing to his field. Now, 54 years after joining the BYU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry as a faculty member, Izatt has received yet another award to top off his long and successful career.
On March 6th, Izatt was honored with the BYU Emeriti Alumni Special Recognition Award. The award is given by the Emeriti Alumni Association to a handful of honorees each year. Though Izatt jokes that he received the award for “longevity,” honorees are actually nominated and then selected based on their contributions in several areas, including family, church, community, and professional service.
All joking aside, the award is the most recent in a long line of recognitions of Izatt’s contributions as a teacher and researcher. Izatt has previously received awards from BYU, Utah State University, the National Institutes of Health, and several scientific societies. He has also contributed to over 560 publications and was a key player in the development of macrocyclic chemistry, which studies organic compounds that can separate metal particles from other substances
In 1977, Izatt and the late James J. Christensen, another BYU professor, began the International Symposium on Macrocyclic Chemistry. At the time, the field was only about ten years old but, under Izatt’s care, both the field and the symposium became increasingly influential. The symposium is now held every year in different locations around the world. As a result, outstanding macrocyclic chemists from many countries have been honored with the Izatt-Christensen award.
Izatt said he feels that his work in macrocyclic chemistry has been the most interesting for him. The science involved has several important applications; the chemistry can be used to remove lead and other dangerous materials and to recover tiny amounts of precious metals.
Izatt has made great contributions not only professionally, but also directly to BYU. His involvement in the college’s student research program has helped further the distinct one-on-one relationship available in mentored research.
“One [contribution to BYU] has been the development of a research program and the involvement of undergraduate students, where they can learn a great deal of information outside of the classroom,” Izatt said. “BYU is a great place to do chemical research!”
Since his retirement, Izatt does less research but remains involved in hosting and organizing the symposium he began. Though his wife, Janet, commended her husband’s compassion and patience, she said his driving characteristic is his love for chemistry.
“One of the first things that attracted me to him is his passion for chemistry,” she said. “After all those years, he’s still excited. He’s still wishing he could be back in research at 83 years old. I’d like to sit back in my rocking chair!”