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2007 George Rieveschl Jr. Award for Distinguished Scientific Research: Joseph Caruso

“All the world’s a stage,” wrote Shakespeare. “… And one man in his time plays many parts.” Shakespeare must have known Joe Caruso.

Date: 4/30/2007
By: Wendy Beckman
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Photos By: Lisa Ventre, Andrew Higley
UC ingot
Professor Joe Caruso has won this year
Professor Joe Caruso has won this year's Rieveschl Award for Distinguished Scientific Research.

Professor, department head, dean, mentor, father — and researcher: Joe Caruso has played many roles at the University of Cincinnati, many of them award winning. Now he has been awarded the Rieveschl Award for Distinguished Scientific Research. Not bad for a guy who started out as a chemistry teacher at Cass Technical High School in Detroit.

Caruso came to the UC Department of Chemistry about 40 years ago after receiving his PhD from Michigan State University, under the direction of Alexander Popov, and a one-year postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Texas. He joined the UC faculty as an assistant professor of analytical chemistry. In a short manner of time, he rose through the ranks of executive officer, associate professor, assistant head, professor, acting head and head of the Department of Chemistry in the McMicken College of Arts & Sciences. After serving as dean of the McMicken College for 13 years (and acting vice president for Student Affairs and Services for part of that), Caruso went back to being a plain old professor of chemistry (except for one encore performance as acting department head for a year).

Caruso chats with UC and Agilent colleagues at the opening of the UC/Agilent Metallomics Center of the Americas.
Caruso chats with UC and Agilent colleagues at the opening of the UC/Agilent Metallomics Center of the Americas.

And now this player of many roles has become a director — of the University of Cincinnati/Agilent Technologies Metallomics Center of the Americas.

Caruso is a member of the American Chemical Society, Canadian Spectroscopy Society, German Mass Spectrometry Society and the Society for Applied Spectroscopy, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry. He has been honored by Eastern Michigan University with its 1990 Distinguished Alumni Award, by the American Chemical Society with the 1992 Cincinnati Chemist of the Year Award, the Federation of Analytical Chemistry and Spectroscopy Society with the 1994 Anachem Award, and with the 2000 Spectrochemical Analysis Award given by the Analytical Division of the American Chemical Society. More recently, he was recognized by the University of Massachusetts –Amherst (Department of Chemistry) as Honoree at the Procter & Gamble Honorary Seminar in September 2005 and by the Journal of Chromatography-A as one of the most cited authors in the 2001 to 2005 period. The Society of Applied Spectroscopy awarded him with the Distinguished Service Award in September 2006 and last June at the all-university commencement he was given the University of Cincinnati “Award for Excellence in Doctoral Student Mentoring.”

Caruso’s research interest focuses on trace elemental analysis by atomic spectrometry using a metallomics approach. “Metallomics” is a fairly new term for the study of metals and metal species in biological systems. It has significant applications in chemical warfare, environmental monitoring and healthcare. For example, the center’s researchers are looking at small molecules in the human body that might be predictive of events such as strokes. Metallomics research could help identify trace amounts of chemical warfare toxins such as VX or sarin, as an indication for whether an event was a terrorist activity or something more innocuous.

Good chemistry — the Caruso lab.
Good chemistry — the Caruso lab.

“It all harks back to chemical analysis,” says Caruso.

Pat Limbach stepped into the role as head of the Department of Chemistry when Caruso had finished acting. Limbach noted, “Joe Caruso’s research has grown and expanded to where he is now an acknowledged international leader in a field, ICP-MS [inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy], in which he received no formal graduate or post-graduate training.” Limbach knows whereof he speaks: he, too, is a biological mass spectrometrist.

“Joe ranks among the three best researchers worldwide in the general area of developing methodology for measuring elemental speciation,” wrote Professor R.S. Houk from Iowa State University.

But not only is he prominent in his research, Joe Caruso is prolific in his publication. He has authored or co-authored almost 340 scientific publications and presented more than 275 invited lectures at universities and at scientific meetings. Beyond the sheer number of articles published, the number of times that his articles are cited by others is outstanding. “Joe’s publications were cited in journal articles over 800 times in the past five years, demonstrating that his research has had a major impact on the research of many other scientists,” wrote Bruce Ault, UC professor of chemistry.

“Joe Caruso balances his outstanding research accomplishments with teaching, departmental service and leadership,” says Limbach.

Caruso enjoys working with his grad students.
Caruso enjoys working with his grad students.

Besides his many roles at the University of Cincinnati, Caruso balances his time with family: wife Judy, daughters Amy and Beth, and son Bill. Caruso also cites the inspiration of his parents, Bill and Mary, as being essential to his success. “The help of my parents, Judy and my kids — their tolerance of many demands on my time,” Caruso says, helped him stay focused. In addition to his family, he is energized by the people around him. “It’s great to work the students, undergraduate and graduate,” he says, “and it is really fulfilling to host the post-docs and visiting researchers. Their enthusiasm and their interest in learning and doing keep me going.”

“Without question, Joe Caruso improves the quality of the Chemistry Department on a daily basis,” says department head Limbach.

“One always likes and appreciates peer recognition, through external awards,” Caruso says with a chuckle. “But it’s especially nice when the recognition comes from your peers inside — some of whom you might have irritated along the way.”

About the Rieveschl Award for Distinguished Scientific Research
The Rieveschl Award for Distinguished Scientific Research was created through the generosity of George Rieveschl. This award recognizes a member of the faculty for professional achievement in science. It is given for a specific research, or the entire canon of one's accomplishment. The emphasis is on research achievement at this institution. Some of the important evaluation criteria in the selection process are: research merit and its impact on the field; attainment of national and international recognition for superior scholarship through archival publications, continued creativity over a sustained period of time, professional activities, including editorial activity for reputable national and international journals, and academic awards of the candidate; and the professional status of the individuals providing supporting letters. The Committee will assess whether the candidate's research has significantly influenced science in the particular field.

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