York professor wins Canada’s highest honour for chemistry

York University Distinguished Research Professor Diethard Bohme has won Canada’s most prestigious chemistry prize for his ground-breaking work in ion chemistry and mass spectrometry.

Bohme, York’s Canada Research Chair in Chemical Mass Spectrometry, has been named the recipient of the 2007 Chemical Institute of Canada (CIC) Medal. The award is presented annually as a mark of distinction and recognition to a person who has made an outstanding contribution to the science of chemistry or chemical engineering in Canada.

Right: Diethard Bohme

“This is a great distinction for Professor Bohme,” said Lorna R. Marsden, York president & vice-chancellor. “His work, which draws on astronomy, physics, chemistry and biology, is truly representative of the interdisciplinary spirit of this University, and a leading example of the calibre of research taking place here at York.”

With his research team, Bohme recently developed a unique type of mass spectrometer that is poised to open up new frontiers in biotechnology through an improved understanding of biochemical activity. It measures the physical and chemical properties of biochemical ions and the rates of their reactions with molecules. With this instrument, Bohme expects to shed new light on how metals embedded within biological constituent molecules contribute to the way in which living tissue is activated and how, for example, DNA is damaged.

His interests in space chemistry focus on the role of ions in molecular growth. Scientists have long known that mixing charged molecules, or ions, with uncharged molecules can yield some of the fastest reactions known to chemistry. An understanding of these reactions may greatly contribute to an understanding of how life developed in our universe. Bohme’s research in this area has led to the recent discovery of an ionic route to the formation of amino acids and exotic carbon rings in the large clouds of gas and dust that are found between the stars and in planetary atmospheres. NASA is currently examining these findings.

The CIC Medal is the latest in a series of accolades for Bohme: during his 41-year academic career, he has won a raft of distinguished awards, including the Gerhard Herzberg Award this year for outstanding achievement in the analytical sciences and spectroscopy. He has been awarded a Killam Research Fellowship and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Bohme will receive the award at the upcoming 2007 CIC/Canadian Society of Chemistry Annual Conference in Winnipeg.