2005 Award Recipient

Professor Tak Hang Bill Chan (Synthetic Organic Chemistry)

Professor Tak Hang Bill Chan (McGill University, Quebec)
Professor Tak Hang Bill Chan is cited for exceptional contributions and impact in the field of synthetic organic chemistry.

Educational Background
Dr. Chan graduated from the University of Toronto with his Bachelor of Science degree, earning his graduate degrees (M.Sc. and Ph.D.) from Princeton University. Before joining McGill’s faculty in 1966, he spent a year as a Research Associate at Harvard. During his McGill career, Dr. Chan served as Chair of the Chemistry Department from 1985 to 1991, as Dean of Science from 1991 to 1994, and as Vice Principal, Academic, from 1994 to 1999. In 2000, he was named Tomlinson Professor of Chemistry, a chair which he held until his retirement this spring. Dr. Chan now serves the Department in the well-deserved capacity of Professor Emeritus.

Career Development
During his tenure as Department Chair, Dr. Chan saw the number of graduate students and the amount of research funding in Chemistry increase substantially; while serving as Dean of Science, he created a Chair in Materials Science, established exchange programs between McGill and three Chinese universities, and provided new student computer facilities. He was the first Western scientist to bring modern chemistry to China in the post- Cultural Revolution era, an enormous impact on Chinese science that the future will confirm.

Major Contributions
The first Chinese-Canadian to become a Vice Principal at a Canadian university, Dr. Chan not only oversaw 11 Faculties and the Centre for Continuing Education, but was also actively involved in search committees for new Deans and in developing new academic initiatives. He established the overseas MBA program in Japan, and was instrumental in the creation of the McGill School of Environment. He reviewed all the undergraduate curricula, chaired the Planning Committee of the University, and continually encouraged the strategic move towards a greater international focus. He had been an extremely effective administrator and leader.

In the field of chemistry, Bill Chan is considered to be an imaginative researcher. His two main areas of interest are Green Chemistry and Medicinal Chemistry. His work in Green Chemistry involves the development of new chemical reactions and processes which can be carried out without the use of organic solvents. Dr. Chan is particularly interested in using water as an inexpensive, nontoxic, and environmentally benign reaction medium. His Medicinal Chemistry research involves the synthesis of compounds with anticancer, antibacterial or antiviral activities. He even has a chemical reaction named after him: the Chan Rearrangement.

Other Honorary
Dr. Chan has supervised 38 Doctoral and 7 Masters students and over 50 visiting scientists and post doctoral fellows. He is the author of over 250 journal articles, numerous books, and book chapters. His seminal Organic Reactions in Aqueous Media, published in 1997 with his former graduate student and current McGill Professor C. J. Li, has positioned him as the reputed founder of Green Chemistry in Canada. Bill Chan has received numerous awards, including the Canada Council’s Senior Killam Fellowship, the Merck Frosst Award and the R. U. Lemieux Award of the Canadian Society of Chemistry. He was also named Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1993 and is in constant demand for plenary lectures and seminars worldwide.

The current Chair of the Department of Chemistry and long-time colleague Dr. R. Bruce Lennox sums up Bill Chan’s career this way:

‘Bill has had two remarkable careers run in parallel. His chemistry, of course, has had great impact, as have his many protégés in industry and academia. His chemistry is certain to be used for generations. His years of service . . . were ones of vision and leadership. At the same time, he tirelessly worked to make strong links between China and the West via state-of-the-art science. These efforts have truly made a difference in the world. Superlatives are the only way to describe Bill Chan’s 38-year career at McGill.’