Chemist becomes 6th UCLA grad to win Nobel Prize

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The Nobel Prize in literature goes to Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa. The writer of more than 30 novels, plays and essays called the honor a “pleasant surprise.” In Westwood, UCLA is still celebrating a Bruin’s share of the Nobel Prize in chemistry.

Richard Heck learned a lot at UCLA. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry in 1952. Two years later, he finished his chemistry Ph.D in Westwood.

In the 1960s, Heck developed a method to overcome the tricky process of joining carbon molecules. The method – now known as the Heck reaction – allowed scientists to create any number of organic compounds. And it meant that medicines found only in small quantities could finally be reproduced in large amounts.

Richard Heck is 79 now; he’s a professor emeritus at the University of Delaware – and lives in the Philippines. He’s sharing the Nobel Prize with two researchers in Japan, but that still counts for UCLA. He is the 6th UCLA alum to win a Nobel Prize.