Photo of Tobin J. Marks

Tobin J. Marks

  • National Medal of Science
  • Chemistry

For his pioneering research in the areas of homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis, organo-f-element chemistry, new electronic and photonic materials, and diverse areas of coordination and solid state chemistry.

Tobin Marks on the future of solar cells

For five decades, Tobin Marks has been on the cutting edge of chemistry. Among his most ambitious work is the development of new organic photonics and olefin-polymerization techniques that opened the door to environmentally-friendly plastics.

Marks has been “a true giant in the field of chemistry,” Stanford University chemistry professor Richard Zare told Chemical & Engineering News in 2016 when Marks was announced as the recipient of the Priestley Medal from the American Chemical Society.

Among Marks’ many achievements are the creation of flexible electronic materials for use in solar cells and light-emitting diodes and developing classes of oxide thin films for use in energy efficient materials. The wide scope of his research has resulted in more than 1,000 published papers and more than 230 patents. He has also mentored hundreds of students over his career.

Marks, who earned a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1970, has been at Northwestern University since 1970.

The vast frontiers of science continue to astound and intrigue him.

“If somebody says something is impossible,’’ he said, “my ears prick up and I wonder, ‘Gee, is that really impossible?’’’

By Bob Warren