WSU research chemists honored by national society

ACS FellowPULLMAN, Wash. – In recognition of their significant accomplishments in the field of chemistry and thoughtful service to the scientific community, two WSU faculty members have been elected as Fellows of the American Chemical Society (ACS), a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress.

Kirk Peterson, professor of chemistry at WSU-Pullman, and Karen Grant, program director of chemistry at WSU-TriCities, were honored at the ACS national meeting in San Francisco on August 11, 2014.


Peterson specializes in computational chemistry: using powerful computers to precisely simulate the structure and describe the reaction of very small molecules (on the order of two to eight atoms) in a variety of situations. His research provides foundational scientific information about the behavior of unstable or dangerous elements such as mercury or uranium and can predict environmental consequences with a high degree of accuracy.

“For instance, using advanced computer modeling, we were able to propose why mercury pollution dispersed in the Arctic atmosphere throughout the year is suddenly deposited into the snowpack every spring,” said Peterson.

Peterson joined the WSU faculty in 1994 and held a joint appointment at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland until 2002. In 2011, he received the WSU College of Sciences Distinguished Faculty award and was appointed as a Meyer Distinguished Professor.


Grant is an organic chemist with a focus on natural product chemistry. In her research projects, she analyzes different parts of different types of plants, looking for compounds with a medicinal use. For example, Grant and the students in her lab isolated guaiazulene—a well known and difficult to synthesize anti-inflammatory agent—in the needles of the noble fir tree.

“Bioactive chemicals can take many forms, from natural insecticides to flavonoids,” said Grant, who is currently investigating the flowers of the Pacific Madrone tree.

She joined WSU in 2004, bringing with her a strong partnership with Columbia Basin College in Pasco where she has taught chemistry since 1991. She is the program director for the joint baccalaureate program between the two institutions and teaches several upper division courses on both campuses.

In 2011, Grant organized a Nobel laureate quilt project for the ACS International Year of Chemistry. Students at both colleges researched the scientists and created squares representing each laureate’s contribution to chemistry and mankind. The resulting unique quilts led to an ACS regional section award and were honored with a national creativity award.

Other ACS fellows affiliated with Washington State University:

  • Sue Clark, Regents professor, WSU College of Arts and Sciences
  • Glenn Crosby, professor emeritus, WSU College of Arts and Sciences
  • Darryl DesMarteau, WSU alumnus, B.S. 1963 (chemistry); professor at Clemson University
  • Karen Grant, program director of chemistry, WSU-TriCities
  • Herbert Hill, Regents professor, WSU College of Arts and Sciences.
  • Kerry Hipps, professor, WSU College of Arts and Sciences; chair, WSU Department of Chemistry
  • Ursula Mazur, professor, WSU College of Arts and Sciences
  • Kenneth Nash, professor, WSU College of Arts and Sciences
  • Kirk Peterson, professor, WSU College of Arts and Sciences
  • Thomas Rauchfuss, WSU alumnus, Ph.D. 1976 (chemistry); professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Yong Wang, Voiland Distinguished Professor, WSU College of Engineering and Architecture; laboratory fellow, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory


Kirk Peterson,, 509-335-7867

Karen Grant,, 509-372-7376