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Somorjai awarded Honda Foundation prize

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Dr. Gabor A. Somorjai
Dr. Gabor A. Somorjai

September 30, 2011

Berkeley chemistry professor Gabor Somorjai has been awarded the Honda Foundation’s Honda Prize 2011 for his pioneering contributions to surface science.

According to the foundation, Somorjai’s “introduction of basic chemical approaches to solid-state physics revolutionized the understanding of the nature of surface interactions when scientific data on surfaces were scarce, and elevated the study of catalysis to the mainstay of surface science.”

The Honda Prize caps a remarkable year for Somorjai — this is his third major award from a private international company or foundation in 2011.

In January, Somorjai was awarded Spain’s celebrated BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award. The award, sponsored by the scientific foundation of the Banco Bilbao Vizcata Argentaria, Spain’s second largest bank, included an award of 400,000 Euros.

In April, Eni’s New Frontiers of Hydrocarbons Prize was awarded to Somorjai and to Martin Landrø, Professor of Applied Geophysics at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Eni is an Italian multinational oil and gas company, currently Italy's largest industrial firm.

After these awards from Spain and Italy, Somorjai has now won an award from Japan. According to the Honda Foundation’s press release:

As a chemist, Dr. Somorjai felt the need to understand and visually describe surface interactions at the molecular level for which he almost single-handedly developed necessary techniques and instrumentation. His unique, chemical approaches to surfaces led to the establishment of catalyst chemistry, and elevated it to the mainstay of surface science. His peers naturally began to hail him as the “father of modern surface chemistry.”

The 32nd award ceremony for the Honda Prize will be held at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo on November 17, 2011. In addition to the prize medal and certificate, prize money of 10 million yen will be awarded to Somorjai.

The Honda Foundation is a public-interest incorporated foundation created by Honda Motor's founder Soichiro Honda and his younger brother Benjiro Honda, and currently headed by Hiroto Ishida.

More Information

Honda Prize Press Release:

Somorjai Research Group:
Somorjai Faculty Webpage: