Jan. 12, 2016 – University of Utah chemist Peter J. Stang shook hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping after Stang and six other foreign scientists were honored with China’s 2015 International Science and Technology Cooperation Award.
“I said ‘thank you’ to him in Chinese and he smiled,” says Stang, recalling the Jan. 8 award ceremony in the Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square in Beijing.
Stang – a University of Utah distinguished professor of chemistry and former dean of science – now has been given major awards and shaken hands with leaders of the world’s two most powerful nations: Xi after the recent award and U.S. President Barack Obama in 2011, when Stang was honored with a National Medal of Science.
What does that feel like?
“I’m a scientist. I’m not very emotional,” Stang says. “It was a nice whatever, but I was cool as a cucumber. I felt good obviously, and I felt honored.”
Video of Stang shaking hands with Xi was captured by CCTV, the primary television broadcaster in China.
The event in the Great Hall featured a number of awards for Chinese people and officials as well as for the seven International Science and Technology Cooperation Award winners, six of whom attended.
This is Stang’s second big award from China in recent months. Last fall, he went to China to accept the 2015 China’s Friendship Award, which is that nation’s “highest award for foreign experts who have made outstanding contributions to the country’s economic and social progress.”
Stang is an organic chemist who joined the U in 1969 served as the U’s dean of science during 1997-2007 and as Department of Chemistry chair during 1989-1995.
He has collaborated in research with Chinese scientists, worked closely with them as editor of the Journal of the American Chemical Society and served as a foreign member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Stang is a pioneer in supramolecular chemistry – the spontaneous formation of large, complex molecules from predesigned building-block molecules. Such molecules have uses in cancer treatment, drug delivery and oil refining.
The latest honor from China is among a long list of Stang’s prizes, including the 2013 Priestley Medal, the American Chemical Society’s highest award.
A brief CCTV video clip of Stang shaking hands with President Xi is here: