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Fran Ligler ’72 wins award from American Chemical Society

profile of white woman at light board, Frances Ligler '72
Frances S. Ligler '72 at the 2017 National Inventors Hall of Fame Illumination Ceremony.

One of the most decorated chemistry alumni in the history of Furman University, Frances S. Ligler will add another award to her collection when she accepts the 2022 ACS Award in Analytical Chemistry at the spring meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Ligler ’72 is the Ross Lampe Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering in the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering at North Carolina State University and the medical school and College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

She earned a bachelor’s from Furman for her double major in biology and chemistry, then went on to secure two doctorates from Oxford University, one in biochemistry and another tied to her globally significant contributions to biosensors.

In 2017, she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) for her groundbreaking work in portable optical biosensors. Ligler holds 36 U.S. patents. Her inventions have been directly commercialized in 11 biosensor products used in food production plants, clinics in developing countries, pollution cleanup sites, and key areas for military and homeland security.

She says the award from ACS is not only a testament to her team at NC State, but to her undergraduate alma mater. “My high school chemistry experience was thoroughly boring. So it was something of a surprise to get to Furman and discover the excitement of chemistry,” Ligler said.

She remembers staying in touch with her analytical chemistry professor, Bill Harris, for decades. Harris, just one of an “impressive community of scholars” hailing from Furman, according to Ligler, invited her to be on an evaluation panel for Dublin City University, where he later served as head of the Science Foundation of Ireland.

The panel responsible for reviewing award nominees at ACS is charged with the task of determining who has “made an outstanding contribution to analytical chemistry … and the importance of their work when applied to public welfare, economics, or the needs and desires of humanity.”

“To convince others that an observation or phenomenon is real, you have to measure it. So throughout my research in biochemistry, immunology, biosensor engineering, microfluidics or regenerative medicine, I have been doing analytical chemistry. Analytical chemistry has been my bread and butter for accomplishing both bioscience and bioengineering,” Ligler said.

Ligler will be formally recognized with the award, sponsored by Battelle Memorial Institute, March 20-24, 2022, at the 263rd ACS national meeting in San Diego.

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