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Kyriacos Costa (KC) Nicolaou was born on July 5, 1946 in Cyprus, where he grew up and went to school until the age of 18. In 1964, he emigrated from Cyprus to England, where he spent two years learning English and preparing to enter the university. His advanced studies in chemistry were carried out at the University of London (B.Sc., 1969, Bedford College, First Class Honors; Ph.D. 1972, University College, with Professors F. Sondheimer and P. J. Garratt). In 1972, he crossed the Atlantic to the United States and completed postdoctoral appointments at Columbia University (1972–1973, Professor T. J. Katz) and Harvard University (1973–1976, Professor E .J. Corey) after which he joined the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, where he rose through the ranks to become the Rhodes-Thompson Professor of Chemistry. In 1989, he accepted joint appointments at the University of California, San Diego, where he is Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, and The Scripps Research Institute, where he is the Chairman of the Department of Chemistry and holds the Darlene Shiley Chair in Chemistry and the Aline W. and L. S. Skaggs Professorship in Chemical Biology.
For his scientific work, Professor Nicolaou has received numerous awards and honors, including the Humboldt Foundation US Senior Scientist Prize (Germany, 1987), the A.C. Cope Scholar Award, American Chemical Society (1987), the Award for Creative Work in Synthetic Organic Chemistry, American Chemical Society (1993), the Dr. Paul Janssen Prize for Creativity in Organic Synthesis, Janssen Research Foundation (1994), the Rhone-Poulenc Medal, Royal Society of Chemistry (U.K., 1995), the William H. Nichols Medal, New York Section-American Chemical Society (1996), the Inhoffen Medal, Gesellschaft fur Biotechnologische Forschung mbH (GBF) (Germany, 1996), the Ernest Guenther Award in the Chemistry of Natural Products, American Chemical Society (1996), the Chemical Pioneer Award, American Institute of Chemists (1996), the Linus Pauling Medal, Oregon, Portland, Puget Sound Sections-American Chemical Society (1996), the Decoration of the Order of the Commander of Honor Medal (bestowed by the President of Greece, 1998), the Gustavus John Esselen Award for Chemistry in the Public Interest, Northeastern Section-American Chemical Society (1998), the Yamada Prize (Japan, 1999), the first Aspirin Prize for Solidarity through Chemistry (Spain, 1999), the Max Tishler Lecture Prize, Harvard University (2000), the Paul Karrer Gold Medal, Universität Zürich (Switzerland, 2000), the Centenary Medal, Royal Society of Chemistry (U.K., 2000–2001), the Ernst Schering Prize, Ernst Schering Research Foundation (Germany, 2001), the Nagoya Gold Medal of Organic Chemistry, Nagoya University (Japan, 2001), Tetrahedron Prize for Creativity in Organic Chemistry (2002), the ACS Nobel Laureate Signature Award for Graduate Education in Chemistry (2003), the Aristeio Bodossaki Prize (Greece, 2004), the A. C. Cope Award, American Chemical Society (2005) Auburn-G. M. Kosolapoff Award, Auburn Section-American Chemical Society (2006), the Burkardt-Helferich Prize (2006), the ISHC Senior Award in Heterocyclic Chemistry (2007), the August-Wilhelm-von-Hofmann-Denkmünze Award (Germany, 2008), the Chandler Medal, Columbia University (2008), Lampousa Lifetime Achievement Award (Cypriot American Association) (2009); the Science Award, Ministry of Education and Culture, Cyprus (2010), and the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Chemistry (2011).
Nicolaou is a Member of the New York Academy of Sciences (1987), Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1993), Member of the United States National Academy of Sciences (1996), Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1999), Foreign Member of the Academy of Athens (Greece, 2001), Honorary Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences (2007), Honorary Member of the Israel Chemical Society (2009), Member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina (2009), Honorary Life Fellow of the Singapore National Institute of Chemistry (2011), Member of the American Philosophical Society (2011), and holds 12 honorary degrees from universities around the world.
He is the author or co-author of over 725 scientific articles, reviews, and book chapters, over 60 patents, and 5 books, including the popular Classics in Total Synthesis co-authored with his student Erik J. Sorensen (1996, VCH), Classics in Total Synthesis II co-authored with his student Scott A. Snyder (2003, Wiley-VCH), Classics in Total Synthesis III co-authored with his student Jason S. Chen (2011, Wiley-VCH), and Molecules That Changed the World, co-authored with his research associate Tamsyn Montagnon (2008, Wiley-VCH). His dedication to chemical education is evidenced by his training of more than 400 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows
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