Chemistry Professor Nicholas Ball Receives Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award and $75,000 Grant

In lab with Professor Ball

Pomona College Chemistry Professor Nicholas Ball has been named a Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar, a prestigious award which honors young faculty in the chemical sciences who have created an outstanding independent body of scholarship and are deeply committed to education with undergraduates. Ball is among eight professors receiving unrestricted research grants of $75,000.

Ball says the grant will allow him and his team of student researchers to exploit techniques that build important bond formations one electron at a time. This includes making molecules with sulfur—an important element in pharmaceutical and agrochemical compounds. By using one-electron chemistries, Ball and his students will develop new methods that allow them to access compounds that are traditionally challenging to access through other strategies. Additionally, this grant will fund studies around his efforts toward inclusive teaching in the chemistry curriculum. 

Earlier this year Ball received a $394,145 research enhancement grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to focus on the development of new chemical reactions that can facilitate drug target discovery using sulfur (VI) fluorides. For this three-year NIH grant, Ball will work with an industry collaborator, Pfizer’s Christopher am Ende, and Chapman University’s Maduka Ogba. This collaboration will expand opportunities for Pomona College students to gain research experiences at Pfizer and in computational chemistry.

A winner of the Wig Distinguished Professor Award in 2018, the College’s highest honor for teaching, Ball has been described by students as “[hard-working], kind, clear and eager to help at every turn,” as well as “an excellent role model, researcher and friend who makes students feel comfortable and engaged inside and outside of the classroom.”

Ball recalls that while he was growing up in the 1990s, the key mantra surrounding education among Black communities was “Knowledge is power.” He has seen that mantra manifest, as he says he thrives on facilitating students’ learning as they “get excited about what they do not know and energized about how they use their knowledge to be transformative. Chemistry has been a great platform for this work.”

Since its inception in 1970, the Teacher-Scholar program has awarded over $52,000,000 to support emerging young leaders in the chemical sciences. The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation is a leading nonprofit organization devoted to the advancement of the chemical sciences. It was established in 1946 by chemist, inventor and businessman Camille Dreyfus in honor of his brother Henry. The foundation’s purpose is “to advance the science of chemistry, chemical engineering and related sciences as a means of improving human relations and circumstances around the world.