Richard Heck

Richard Heck

Class of 1952, Ph.D. 1954
Chemistry pioneer, Nobel Laureate

He made molecules miraculous.

The sixth UCLA alumnus to win a Nobel Prize, Richard Heck pioneered a method for synthesizing complex carbon molecules. The technique was widely adopted for producing possible anti-cancer drugs, analgesics (including morphine) and industrial products such as fine chemicals and fragrances. And one more thing: they named the process after the former Westwood postdoc. The “Heck reaction” has become a pillar of modern organic chemistry–and a key to the research that led to the sequencing of the human genome. First published in the late 1960s, the innovation has had amazing staying power: In the past decade, Heck’s name has been cited in literally thousands of research papers.

How will you produce a reaction?