MSU Chemistry Professor James Kenneth McCusker Awarded 2018 William J. Beal Outstanding Faculty Award

  • Feb 13, 2018
  • James McCusker

James Kenneth McCusker has always been fascinated by the interaction of light with molecules. As a middle school student, his interest in photography was as much about the process by which the photographs were developed as it was about taking the pictures. This interest carried through into his independent academic career.

Professor McCusker’s research has focused in two major areas of physical-inorganic chemistry, but the one most widely known is the application of the ultrafast spectroscopic techniques for the study of the excited-state properties of transition-metal-containing molecules. This work seeks to understand what happens to the energy a molecule absorbs as light between the moment light first interacts with the molecule and when the molecule can begin performing chemistry. Although the time of these processes can be as short as one-tenth of one-trillionth of a second, it can define everything that follows. The significance of this work ranges from fundamental questions concerning light-matter interactions to the development of strategies for solar energy conversion utilizing earth-abundant materials that can facilitate the global scalability of new discoveries. Real-world applications of his research include harvesting solar energy cheaply and efficiently, designing new ways to store and transfer solar energy and using light to discover and manufacture drugs. Research from McCusker’s group has led to the publication of 80 peer-reviewed papers and some 300 invited seminars at conferences and universities in more than 20 countries.

Professor McCusker has been a relentless promoter of the inorganic chemistry field—to both local and international audiences. He organized two major international conferences: the 2012 Gordon Research Conference on Electron Donor-Acceptor Interactions and the 20th International Symposium on the Photophysics and Photochemistry of Coordination Compounds. His appointment to the editorial board of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Chemical Science along with his designation of Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry further reflects his international influence. Locally, McCusker organized a public symposium celebrating the United Nations International Year of Light in 2015. He is an associate editor of the journal “Chemical Science” and president of the Inter-American Photochemical Society.

His passion for research extends to his teaching. In 1999, he was awarded the Department of Chemistry’s Teaching Award at the University of California, Berkeley. His MSU students praise his involvement in their learning and careers, regularly crediting his guidance with their success.

For his research, teaching and dedication to his students and colleagues’ learning and careers, James Kenneth McCusker is richly deserving of the Michigan State University William J. Beal Outstanding Faculty Award.