Kenneth S. Suslick

Fellow: Awarded 2011

Field of Study: Chemistry

Competition: US & Canada


Ken Suslick is the Marvin T. Schmidt Professor of Chemistry, a professor of materials science and engineering, and a Beckman Institute Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Professor Suslick received his B.S. from Caltech in 1974, Ph.D. from Stanford in 1978, and joined the University of Illinois immediately thereafter. He was promoted at the age of 35 to full Professor, he received the William H. & Janet Lycan Professorship in 1997, and in 2004 he was appointed the inaugural Schmidt Professor of the University of Illinois. Suslick has published more than 300 scientific papers, edited four books, and holds thirty patents. Suslick is the world’s leading authority on the physical and chemical effects of ultrasound. His other research interests include catalytic and functional nanomaterials, chemical sensing, and bioinorganic chemistry.

Dr. Suslick is also the inventor of optoelectronic nose technology that has spawned two start-up companies and generated more than a dozen U.S. patents and pending patents. Simple in concept, Suslick’s optoelectronic nose is essentially a multidimensional, digital extension of litmus paper. Using an array of printed chemically responsive colorants, this optoelectronic nose has shown exceptional sensitivity and, even more importantly, unprecedented chemical selectivity for the detection of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and toxic industrial chemicals. In the very near future, this technology will create the equivalent of a radiation badge for personal monitoring of chemical exposure in the workplace. The object of his Guggenheim Fellowship has been to develop biomedical applications of this optoelectronic nose for the diagnosis of lung cancer by breath analysis and for the rapid identification of bacterial infections by smell.

Professor Suslick prides himself on his mentorship of young scientists. He has supervised more than sixty Ph.D. graduate students, thirty postdoctoral research associates, and twenty undergraduate research assistants. He has been recognized for his mentoring by both the American Chemical Society and the Acoustical Society of America. He has received significant recognition from the American Chemical Society (both the ACS Senior Cope Scholar Award and the ACS Nobel Laureate Signature Award), the Royal Society of Chemistry (Sir George Stokes Medal), the Materials Research Society (MRS Medal), the Acoustical Society of America (Student Mentor Award), the International Society for Olfaction & Chemical Sensing (Wolfgang Göpel Award), and the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce (the Silver Medal). In addition, he received an NIH Research Career Development Award, was a Sloan Foundation Research Fellow and a Hertz Foundation Graduate Fellow. Suslick is a Fellow of the AAAS, Acoustical Society of America, the American Chemical Society, and the Materials Research Society.

By avocation, Suslick is a sculptor, sometimes of molecules, sometimes of bronze (please see slide show).

Profile photograph by Jim Gray.