UCSB chemistry professors Peter Ford and Craig Hawker have both received national honors from the American Chemical Society and will be presented with their respective awards at the ACS awards ceremony in New Orleans on April 9, 2013.

Ford earned the ACS Award for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry, sponsored by Strem Chemicals, while Hawker — who is also a professor of materials as well as Director of the Materials Science Research Lab — received the ACS Award for Polymer Chemistry, sponsored by ExxonMobil Chemical.

The professors are among 64 other distinguished scholars recognized for their ongoing research in the field of chemistry. The ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and includes over 160,000 members who engage in varying degrees and fields of chemistry.

According to Hawker, one must first be nominated by three colleagues in order to be considered for the award; the nomination is then submitted to a committee who reviews the candidate.

“It is a really hard process. It’s like trying to judge art, because how do you really judge that?” Hawker said. “Judging science is kind of the same thing.”

Nonetheless, the honor is an accurate reflection of the overall prestige UCSB holds in the field, according to Ford, who said while the society provides awards in inorganic chemistry to scholars internationally, most honors are given to American chemists. He also said the award he received recognizes scientific contributions that go beyond research alone.

“In my area of inorganic chemistry, my research team and I are involved in studies primarily in the compounds of metals,” Ford said. “The award I received … is an award with a fairly broad scope because it is for contributions across both research and teaching and for contributions to the society.”

Hawker said his honor for excellence in research of polymer chemistry was not just the product of his own work but was that of a combined, long-term effort on behalf of everyone in his research group, including undergraduates, graduates, postdoctoral students and research associates.

“[The award] is not one given over one single accomplishment,” Hawker said. “It is for a number of things over a number of years. It really is a cumulative award for all the hard work completed, especially by the students in my [research] group, over the past 10 to 15 years.”

According to Hawker, the success of individual UCSB faculty members and the institution’s overall prestige is largely due to the school’s distinct culture and work environment.

“If you look at UCSB, the materials department is number one in the country. Chemical engineering is number two or three [and] electrical [engineering] is not far behind. We really do well here in scientific engineering and research — much better than you think,” Hawker said. “I feel it is because of the unique culture here on campus, where people work through cross-traditional boundaries [and] engage in multidisciplinary research.”