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NMSU's Joseph Wang wins national chemistry award

Smaller, faster, better, cheaper. Those are Joseph Wang's watchwords as he develops hand-held sensors for detecting lead in blood, measuring glucose levels in diabetics, analyzing DNA or monitoring water pollution.

News of Wang's research appears regularly in scientific journals, and now the New Mexico State University chemistry professor has been selected by the American Chemical Society's Division of Analytical Chemistry as the 1999 winner of its Chemical Instrumentation Award.

The prestigious award, given to only one chemist each year, will be presented at the ACS meeting in New Orleans in August. A two-day analytical chemistry symposium in Wang's honor, featuring presentations by 12 of the leading scientists in the field, will be held as part of the ACS conference.

The honor, which includes a $4,000 stipend and a plaque, goes annually to "an individual who has uniquely advanced the field of chemical instrumentation." Wang's advancements have been primarily in the area of micro-instrumentation -- making ever-smaller devices that can rapidly do what previously required time-consuming, expensive processes.

"Instead of collecting samples and sending them to a laboratory for analysis, we are moving it to the field," he said. "We are shrinking the analytic instrumentation -- not only the sensors, but also the pumps, the electronics, the controls, everything. We can do it faster, better, simpler and cheaper."

Another advantage of micro-instrumentation is that it minimizes the use of reagents, the chemical substances used in the detection process. Reagents may be expensive or toxic.

Wang holds six patents and has authored five books, 15 chapters and more than 450 research papers. He has presented more than 100 invited lectures in major international conferences.

Since 1980, 15 doctoral students, 30 research associates and 20 visiting professors from around the world have studied with Wang and worked in his NMSU laboratories. Most any day of the week, he can be seen rushing from one busy lab to another, from work on a tiny biochip that might be used in field analysis of DNA to development of a wristwatch device that diabetics may soon use for continuous monitoring of their glucose levels.

The work that Wang and his colleagues do combines chemistry, molecular biology, electroanalysis, microfabrication, electronics and other technologies.

"Dr. Wang has been one of the giants in the New Mexico State University research effort for quite some time, and this fact is well known by his colleagues on campus," said Rene Casillas, dean of arts and sciences at NMSU. "This prestigious award, the American Chemical Society's highest award for analytical chemists, signifies that the international community has long recognized his important contributions."

A native of Israel, Wang got his doctorate at the Israel Institute of Technology in 1978. He joined the NMSU faculty in 1980, after serving for two years as a research associate at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

Wang was ranked by the Institute for Scientific Information as the "most cited" electrochemist in the world in 1995. In 1994 he received a medal from the Czech Republic Academy of Sciences and in 1990 he received NMSU's highest academic award, the Westhafer Award for Research.

He is chief editor of the international journal Electroanalysis and serves on the advisory boards of 10 other major international scientific journals.

More information about his research can be found on the World Wide Web at http://www.chemistry.nmsu.edu/~research/sensors/srg/research.html.

Karl Hill