Dickson Emeriti Professorship awarded to chemist Phil Crews

Phil Crews

Phil Crews, a distinguished research professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UC Santa Cruz, has been awarded an Edward A. Dickson Emeriti Professorship for the 2015-16 academic year.

The Dickson Emeritus Professorships are awarded annually and funded by an endowment from the estate of former UC Regent Edward A. Dickson. The honor recognizes Crews for his contributions to research, teaching, and public service. This award will enable him to teach a chemistry graduate course ("Spectroscopy and Applied Analytical Methods") in 2016.

Crews said he is enthused about teaching the course, which is a critical part of the curriculum for graduate students in organic chemistry. Crews is the lead author of a widely used textbook on the subject, Organic Structure Analysis, published by Oxford University Press and coauthored by two colleagues (Jaime Rodriguez and Marcel Jaspars) who were postdoctoral researchers in his lab in the 1990s.

"Teaching this course again will catalyze my work on a revision of the book," he said. "The second edition came out in 2010, so we need to make timely progress on completing a third edition."

Active research lab

Crews, who joined the UCSC faculty in 1970, retired in 2012 from regular teaching duties. He continues to run an active research laboratory that includes several postdoctoral fellows, staff scientists, undergraduate students, and visiting professors. Supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and National Science foundation, the team is investigating the chemistry of marine natural products. The Crews lab isolates and characterizes unique chemicals from sponges and marine microorganisms, searching for compounds with potential therapeutic value in treating human diseases. Crews and his collaborators have identified several compounds that show promise for the future development of drugs to fight cancer and other diseases.

Crews served as President of the American Society of Pharmacognosy for 2014-15. A fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, he has received many awards and honors for his achievements, including the 2008-09 Outstanding Faculty Award from the Division of Physical and Biological Sciences.

In 1994, with a grant from the National Institutes of Health, Crews founded the ACCESS program to introduce community college students from underrepresented backgrounds to research opportunities at UC Santa Cruz. The grant was renewed this year, providing continued funding of the program for another five years. He also continues to be involved in building the infrastructure of the chemistry department, most recently as principal investigator of a grant funded by the National Science Foundation that brought a cutting-edge mass spectrometer to the campus.

Edward A. Dickson served as a Regent of the University of California from 1913 to 1946, the longest tenure of any Regent. In 1955, Dickson presented the University with a gift endowment which enables each campus to make an annual award recognizing teaching, research, or public service by one or more emeritus professors.