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University Relations

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Jan. 21, 2005
Contact: Andrea Albright, University Relations, (785) 864-8860.

New national award will keep memory of beloved KU chemist 'Buzz' Adams alive

LAWRENCE -- Two years after the death of a nationally renowned and beloved University of Kansas distinguished professor of chemistry, his former students and colleagues are finding ways to keep his memory alive.

The inaugural Ralph N. Adams Award in Bioanalytical Chemistry will be presented to Iowa State University Professor Edward S. Yeung Feb. 28 during the Pittsburgh Conference, an analytical sciences and instrumentation conference in Orlando, Fla. Former students, family, colleagues and friends of the late professor are endowing the annual international award, which will include a plaque, a $2,500 honorarium and a symposium.

A group of alumni and friends previously established funding for the endowed Ralph N. Adams Professorship in the Department of Chemistry at KU Endowment.

" Adams was the father of bioanalytical chemistry and was one of the faculty members who brought fame to the chemistry department at the University of Kansas," said Craig Lunte, chair of chemistry at KU. "He was one of our most important chemistry faculty. He also was quite beloved."

Adams, who was known by the nickname "Buzz" after his days as a bomber pilot in World War II, received a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Rutgers University in 1950 and a doctoral degree from Princeton University in 1953. He was a member of the faculty at Princeton until 1955, when he came to KU.

During his early years at KU, Adams' research interests focused on organic electrochemistry. In 1969 Adams shifted his attention to neuroscience, and from 1972 to 1975 he was an interdisciplinary scholar with the Menninger Foundation in Topeka. Since the 1970s, Adams' research had focused on electroanalytical methods applied to tracking neurotransmitters, like dopamine, and neurochemical studies of schizophrenia.

To his students and colleagues, Adams was known for his straightforwardness and informality. Former student Ted Kuwana, emeritus professor of chemistry at KU, said those characteristics translated to Adams' behavior and dress.

" Most of the time he never wore socks," Kuwana said. "If he'd had his druthers, he probably wouldn't have worn shoes -- a hangover from his days of growing up on the New Jersey beaches. That was his casual nature.

" There was no barrier to students in their access to him. He was one of the most unassuming and unpretentious individuals I have ever known. "

Nationally renowned and recognized for his decades of work, Adams was among the first scientists to receive a Higuchi/Endowment Research Achievement Award, established in 1981 by the late Takeru Higuchi, KU distinguished professor of chemistry and pharmacy and chair of pharmaceutical chemistry, and his wife, Aya. Adams was nominated for a Nobel Prize in 1997.

Adams retired from KU as professor emeritus of chemistry in 1992. He died Nov. 28, 2002, after a short illness. He was 78.

Kuwana said it was important to honor great professors to perpetuate their memory and to inspire future generations.

" Adams serves as a role model," he said. "He was a wonderful faculty member and a wonderful individual. Each time this award is given, his qualities -- which were totally unique -- will be remembered."


The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus. | (785) 864-3256 | 1314 Jayhawk Blvd., Lawrence, KS 66045