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Chemistry Alumna: Receiving 2008 Morley Medal 'An Honor'

Janet Del Bene, PhD '68, joins Nobel Laureates and McMicken professors recognized for contributions to chemistry.

Date: 8/1/2008
By: Britt Kennerly
Phone: (513) 556-8577
When the 2008 Morley Medal for outstanding contributions to chemistry was awarded to theoretical chemist Janet Del Bene, she made news as the first woman to win the prize.

Faculty and friends from A&S, however, recognized years ago that Del Bene, who earned her PhD in the Department of Chemistry in 1968, was a stand-out scholar and scientist. It's no surprise, they say, to see her name as a Morley winner alongside, among others, two Nobel Laureates and McMicken colleagues Milton Orchin (1980), Hans Jaffe (1985) and James Marks (2002).

Janet Del Bene, PhD, 1968, Chemistry


Del Bene, who earned bachelor's degrees in education and chemistry from Youngstown State University (YSU), is known globally as an expert in the field of hydrogen bonding. Her research has addressed questions concerning the structures and stabilities of hydrogen-bonded complexes, the methodological dependence of their computed properties, and their infrared vibrational spectra, with emphasis on the anharmonicity of the proton-stretching vibration particularly in complexes with proton-shared hydrogen bonds.

Del Bene, professor emeritus of chemistry at YSU, received the medal and other honors at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland in May. In addition to being the first woman to receive the Morley prize, she is the only person honored for research done at an institution with a primary mission of undergraduate education.

"The Morley Medal has been in existence for 40 years, so it's an honor to get it," says Del Bene, the author or co-author of more than 200 scientific papers and chapters in books.

"The territory it covers and the eligible people and places are pretty extensive, so I'm very happy."

Del Bene laughingly recalls Emeritus Professor Milton Orchin from her days as a UC graduate student, in what she refers to as a "very special department." She and other students, she says, called the professor as "Uncle Miltie" – a nickname long associated with comedian Milton Berle. In Orchin's case, Del Bene says, the moniker "Uncle Miltie" was appropriate because of the professor's depth of concern and caring for his students.

"I remember so many times when he'd say, ‘Janet, I've got a problem for you,'' she says. "A few years ago, I presented a seminar at UC and visited several people. Milton Orchin said, 'Janet, I've got a problem for you,' and we later published our first paper together."

And in turn, Orchin has fond memories of Del Bene, whose adviser was Hans Jaffe.
"Janet Del Bene was a star in the Hans Jaffe firmament – a brilliant theoretician with a talent for making complicated things simple; a masterful lecturer," Orchin says.

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