Alumnus Richard Larock Supports Chemistry Undergraduate Education and Research

2018 Larock conference
Participants in the 2018 Larock conference. Richard Larock is sitting in the front row center.

For more than 10 years, Richard C. Larock (B.S., ’67), Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at Iowa State University in Ames, has supported undergraduate research in chemistry through a generous gift that funds a yearly research conference organized by the Department of Chemistry in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science.

Now, thanks to a significant new gift from Larock, the conference will continue for many years to come. Larock’s gift funds an endowment to provide ongoing support for the undergraduate research conference. In 2018, Larock also made significant gifts establishing the Richard C. Larock Undergraduate Scholarship, for outstanding undergraduate students, and the Richard C. Larock Outstanding Graduating Senior Award, to provide financial support for an outstanding graduating senior.

Modeled on an academic conference, the Richard Larock Undergraduate Research Conference helps students develop the skills needed to succeed after graduation. “No matter whether you go into industry or academics, there are many times when you’re asked to get up in front of an audience and explain what you’re doing and why it’s worthwhile,” Larock said.

The 2018 Larock conference featured work from 42 undergraduates across a wide variety of disciplines, including superconductors, antidepressants, nanoparticles and environmentally-friendly chemical manufacturing.

For alumnus Navtej Grewal (B.S., ’17), who worked on the chemistry of thermoelectric materials, the conference experience was invaluable. “Participating in the Larock conference was a fantastic experience because on a day-to-day basis I’m only thinking about recent findings and reactions, but being able to see my progress was incredibly rewarding,” Grewal said. “I aspire to become a surgeon, and while the chemistry of thermoelectric materials will likely never find its way into an operating theater, the skills I have acquired in my lab to consider all the variables that factor into the results of a trial will be invaluable.”

Ting Guo, professor of chemistry, said the gifts reflect Larock’s deep commitment to undergraduate education in chemistry. “Richard Larock's creativity and generosity are a shining example of the values instilled in students at UC Davis,” Guo said. “We look forward to working with Richard to improve our undergraduate education.”

Larock's research career began in the UC Davis laboratory of Professor George Zweifel, an eminent organic chemist. Larock completed his graduate studies at Purdue University with Herbert C. Brown, who would win the 1979 Nobel Prize for the use of organoboron compounds as important reagents in organic synthesis. “I was lucky to get in on the very early stages of this growing field. There was always something new and exciting happening,” Larock said. He then went to Harvard University for a postdoctoral position with Elias Corey, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1990 for organic synthesis. Larock joined the faculty at Iowa State University in 1972, with a research emphasis on organopalladium chemistry and organic polymers.

Larock is the author of four books on organomercurials and synthetic organic methodology. His honors include an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship, a DuPont Young Faculty Award, two Merck Academic Development Awards, the Iowa Regents Award for Faculty Excellence, the 2003 ACS Edward Leete Award, the 2004 Paul Rylander Award of the Organic Reactions Catalysis Society, a 2004 ACS Arthur C. Cope Senior Scholar Award, and the 2009 ACS Midwest Region Award.

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