Marion C. Thurnauer

Last updated
Marion C. Thurnauer
Thurnauer, presenting to the Women Chemists Committee at the ACS National Meeting, Philadelphia, 2016
Born (1945-03-21) March 21, 1945 (age 75)
Alma mater University of Chicago
Spouse(s) Alexander Trifunac [1]
Awards Garvan–Olin Medal (2001)
Scientific career
Fields Chemistry
Institutions Argonne National Laboratory, Chemistry Division
Doctoral advisor Gerhard L. Closs

Marion Charlotte Thurnauer is an American chemist at the Argonne National Laboratory. She was the first woman to be promoted to a staff position in the Chemistry Division (CHM), the first woman director of CHM, and the first woman division director at Argonne. She is an Argonne Distinguished Fellow Emeritus in the Chemical Sciences and Engineering Division, and has received numerous awards for her work in chemistry and her support of women in science. [2]


Early life and education

Marion Thurnauer was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, later moving to Minnesota. Her father, Hans Thurnauer was a ceramic engineer. [1] Her mother, Lotte Oettinger Thurnauer, died in 1959, while Marion was still young. [1] One of her aunts, Luise Herzberg, was an astrophysicist. Thurnaeur credits family interests in science as a formative influence. [2]

She received her B.A. (1968), M.S. (1969) and Ph.D. (1974) in chemistry, from the University of Chicago. [2] [3] Other women students in the chemistry program included Jeannette Manello and Barbara Warren. Thurnauer credits her future husband, Alexander Trifunaci, with convincing her to study chemistry and learn techniques that could then be applied to biological systems. [4]

Thurnauer's doctoral thesis advisor was Gerhard L. Closs. For her thesis work, she studied magnetic interactions in radical pairs using electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR). The final experiments for her thesis research were conducted with an electron paramagnetic resonance spectrometer at Argonne National Laboratory because equipment at the University of Chicago had been damaged in an explosion. [2]

Argonne National Laboratory

Thurnauer obtained a postdoctoral position in the Chemistry Division (CHM) of Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Illinois. There she worked with James R. Norris and Joseph J. Katz. In her postdoctorate work, she used electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy to study photochemical energy conversion in natural photosynthesis. She was the first woman to be promoted to a staff position, that of Assistant Chemist, and for several years was the only female staff scientist in the chemistry division. [2] From 1993 to 1995 she was the Group Leader for the Photochemical Energy Sciences Group in the Chemistry Division. [5] In 1995 she became the first woman director of CHM, [6] and the first woman division director at Argonne. [2] [7] [2] [8] She continued as director until 2003, when she was named Argonne Distinguished Fellow, Chemistry Division. In 2006, she became Argonne Distinguished Fellow Emeritus of the Chemical Sciences and Engineering Division. [2] She has published more than 100 articles and holds at least 2 patents. [9] She has actively encouraged the careers of other women scientists such as Tijana Rajh | url=, an award-winning Argonne nanoscientist from Yugoslavia. [10]

Dr. Thurnauer studies fundamental mechanisms in photophysics and photochemistry and their applications to the design of artificial photocatalytic systems. [11] A major area of her research has been solar photochemical energy conversion in bacterial and oxygenic photosynthesis and model photosynthetic systems. [9] Oxygenic photosynthesis is the main process providing energy to the biosphere of the planet, creating the protective ozone layer and consuming carbon dioxide. [12] Photosynthetic organisms use solar energy, converting it into high-energy biochemical compounds. She has modelled the spin and polarization of electrons in photosynthetic systems and helped to develop time-resolved magnetic resonance techniques for the study of sequential electron transfer in photochemical energy conversion. With researchers such as Tijana Rajh, she has studied bio-inspired nanomaterials that mimic the energy transduction of natural photosynthesis. She is a co-editor of "The Purple Photosynthetic Bacteria" (2008), a collection of authoritative reviews on bacterial photosynthesis. [3] She has also engaged in research relating to heavy elements chemistry, separations chemistry, radiation chemistry, and environmental management. [9] [11]

Women in Science and Technology

Thurnauer was awarded the Argonne National Laboratory Pacesetter Award in 1989 for her work in establishing the "Science Careers in Search of Women" conference, an extremely successful program which enables students to learn about technical careers in science and engineering and meet with women working actively in science. [8] [13] The first year involved college women, but in ensuing years the program has worked with high school students. [4]

After the second conference, Argonne leadership and women scientists launched the Argonne Women in Science and Technology (WIST) program. [2] Thurnauer and others emphasized that outreach and internal career development were closely linked, promoting change within the organization as well as without: "Young women could not be brought to Argonne and successfully encouraged to be scientists and engineers if they observed only a few women in relatively lower level positions." [4] Thurnauer served a two-year term (1992-1994) as the Women in Science Program Initiator, a paid 30% appointment, and for several years was a member of the WIST Steering Committee. [5]


Related Research Articles

Photosynthesis Biological process to convert light into chemical energy

Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to convert light energy into chemical energy that can later be released to fuel the organisms' activities. This chemical energy is stored in carbohydrate molecules, such as sugars, which are synthesized from carbon dioxide and water – hence the name photosynthesis, from the Greek phōs (φῶς), "light", and sunthesis (σύνθεσις), "putting together". In most cases, oxygen is also released as a waste product. Most plants, most algae, and cyanobacteria perform photosynthesis; such organisms are called photoautotrophs. Photosynthesis is largely responsible for producing and maintaining the oxygen content of the Earth's atmosphere, and supplies most of the energy necessary for life on Earth.

Argonne National Laboratory Science and engineering research national laboratory in Lemont, IL, United States

Argonne National Laboratory is a science and engineering research national laboratory operated by the University of Chicago Argonne LLC for the United States Department of Energy located in Lemont, Illinois, outside Chicago. It is the largest national laboratory by size and scope in the Midwest.

Melvin Calvin American chemist

Melvin Ellis Calvin was an American biochemist known for discovering the Calvin cycle along with Andrew Benson and James Bassham, for which he was awarded the 1961 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He spent most of his five-decade career at the University of California, Berkeley.

Photochemistry Sub-discipline of chemistry

Photochemistry is the branch of chemistry concerned with the chemical effects of light. Generally, this term is used to describe a chemical reaction caused by absorption of ultraviolet, visible light (400–750 nm) or infrared radiation (750–2500 nm).

James Franck German physicist

James Franck was a German physicist who won the 1925 Nobel Prize for Physics with Gustav Hertz "for their discovery of the laws governing the impact of an electron upon an atom". He completed his doctorate in 1906 and his habilitation in 1911 at the Frederick William University in Berlin, where he lectured and taught until 1918, having reached the position of professor extraordinarius. He served as a volunteer in the German Army during World War I. He was seriously injured in 1917 in a gas attack and was awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class.

Chlorophyll <i>a</i> chemical compound

Chlorophyll a is a specific form of chlorophyll used in oxygenic photosynthesis. It absorbs most energy from wavelengths of violet-blue and orange-red light. It also reflects green-yellow light, and as such contributes to the observed green color of most plants. This photosynthetic pigment is essential for photosynthesis in eukaryotes, cyanobacteria and prochlorophytes because of its role as primary electron donor in the electron transport chain. Chlorophyll a also transfers resonance energy in the antenna complex, ending in the reaction center where specific chlorophylls P680 and P700 are located.

Jacqueline Barton American chemist

Jacqueline K. Barton, is an American chemist. She worked as a Professor of Chemistry at Hunter College (1980–82), and at Columbia University (1983–89) before joining the California Institute of Technology. In 1997 she became the Arthur and Marian Hanisch Memorial Professor of Chemistry and in 2009, the Chair of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Caltech. She currently is the John G. Kirkwood and Arthur A. Noyes Professor and Norman Davidson Leadership Chair of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering.

Artificial photosynthesis is a chemical process that biomimics the natural process of photosynthesis to convert sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide into carbohydrates and oxygen. The term artificial photosynthesis is commonly used to refer to any scheme for capturing and storing the energy from sunlight in the chemical bonds of a fuel. Photocatalytic water splitting converts water into hydrogen and oxygen and is a major research topic of artificial photosynthesis. Light-driven carbon dioxide reduction is another process studied that replicates natural carbon fixation.

Daniel G. Nocera American chemist

Daniel George Nocera is an American chemist, currently the Patterson Rockwood Professor of Energy in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2006 he was described as a "major force in the field of inorganic photochemistry and photophysics". Time magazine included him in its 2009 list of the 100 most influential people.

Graham R. Fleming is a Professor of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley and member of the Kavli Energy NanoScience Institute based at UCB.

Joseph J. Katz was a chemist at Argonne National Laboratory whose fundamental research on the chemistry of photosynthesis led to his election to the US National Academy of Science. His parents were Jewish immigrants from Czarist Russia. Neither parent had any formal education.

Hoylande Young American chemist

Hoylande Denune Young Failey was an American chemist. During World War II she worked at the Manhattan Project's Metallurgical Laboratory. After the war she became the first woman to be appointed as a division head at the Argonne National Laboratory, and the first woman to chair the Chicago Section of the American Chemical Society.

Caroline Stuart Littlejohn Herzenberg is an American physicist.

Bill Rutherford Alfred William (Bill) Rutherford FRS is Professor and Chair in Biochemistry of Solar Energy in the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London

Alfred William (Bill) Rutherford FRS is Professor and Chair in Biochemistry of Solar energy in the Department of Life sciences at Imperial College London.

Margaret Kampschaefer Butler was a mathematician who participated in creating and updating computer software. During the early 1950s, Butler contributed to the development of early computers. Butler was the first female fellow at the American Nuclear Society and director of the National Energy Software Center at Argonne. Butler held leadership positions within multiple scientific organizations and women's groups. She was the creator and director of the National Energy Software Center. Here, Butler operated an exchange for the editing of computer programs in regards to nuclear power and developed early principles for computer technology.

Maria-Elisabeth Michel-Beyerle is a German chemist. From 1974-2000 she was a professor of Physical Chemistry at the Technical University of Munich. Among other awards, she has received the 2000 Bavarian Order of Merit, the highest service order bestowed by the Free State of Bavaria, for her work on photosynthesis.

Michael Roman Wasielewski is an American physical chemist. He is currently the Clare Hamilton Hall professor of chemistry, director of the Argonne-Northwestern Solar Energy Research Center, executive director of the Institute for Sustainability and Energy, and executive director of the Solar Fuels Institute at Northwestern University.

Giulia Galli American condensed-matter physicist

Giulia Galli is a condensed-matter physicist. She is the Liew Family Professor of Molecular Engineering and Professor of Chemistry at the University of Chicago and senior scientist at Argonne National Laboratory. She is also the director of the Midwest Integrated Center for Computational Materials. She is recognized for her contributions to the fields of computational condensed-matter, materials science, and nanoscience, most notably first principles simulations of materials and liquids, in particular materials for energy, properties of water, and excited state phenomena.

Wolfgang Lubitz researcher

Wolfgang Lubitz is a German chemist and biophysicist. He is currently a director emeritus at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion. He is well known for his work on bacterial photosynthetic reaction centres, hydrogenase enzymes, and the oxygen-evolving complex using a variety of biophysical techniques. He has been recognized by a Festschrift for his contributions to electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) and its applications to chemical and biological systems.

Emily A. Weiss is the Mark and Nancy Ratner Professor of Chemistry and Director of the Photo-Sciences Research Center at Northwestern University. Her research considers the optical and electronic properties of nanostructures, including hybrid organic–inorganic quantum dots. She was a two-time finalist in the Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists.


  1. 1 2 3 "In Memoriam, Hans Thurnauer, 1908-2007" (PDF). Interface (Summer 2007). The Electrochemical Society. 2007. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Domush, Hilary L. (8 April 2010). Marion C. Thurnauer, Transcript of an Interview Conducted by Hilary L. Domush at Boulder, Colorado on 7 and 8 April 2010 (PDF). Philadelphia, PA: Chemical Heritage Foundation.
  3. 1 2 Hunter, C. Neil; Daldal, Fevzi; Thurnauer, Marion C.; Beatty, J. Thomas (2009). The purple phototrophic bacteria (Online ed.). Dordrecht: Springer. p. xxxv. ISBN   978-1-4020-8814-8 . Retrieved 23 October 2014.
  4. 1 2 3 Keiter, Ellen A.; Piocos, Elizabeth A. (2005). "Marion Thurnauer, Senior Scientist: A view from a government laboratory". In Hinkle, Amber S.; Kocsis, Jody (eds.). Successful women in chemistry : corporate America's contribution to science. Washington, DC: American Chemical Society. pp.  111–116. ISBN   0841239126.
  5. 1 2 "Marion C. Thurnauer" (PDF). Argonne National Laboratory. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
  6. 1 2 Gregory, Ted (October 31, 1995). "Unveils Good Things For Conservation". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  7. Center for Oral History. "Marion C. Thurnauer". Science History Institute .
  8. 1 2 Holl, Jack M.; Schriesheim, Richard G.; Harris, Ruth R.; Hewlett, Alan (1997). Argonne National Laboratory, 1946-96. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. ISBN   9780252023415.
  9. 1 2 3 "Staff: Marion C. Thurnauer". Chemistry Division. Argonne National Laboratory. Archived from the original on 24 January 2016. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
  10. Lerner, Louise (December 2009). "Innovators, 3". Innovation, America's Journal of Technology Commercialization. 7 (6). Archived from the original on 27 October 2014. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  11. 1 2 Thurnauer, M. C.; Dimitrijevic, N. M.; Poluektov, O. G.; Rajh, T. (Spring 2004). "Photoinitiated Charge Separation: From Photosynthesis to Nanoparticles" (PDF). The Spectrum. 17 (1): 10–15. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  12. Razeghifard, Reza (2013). Natural and artificial photosynthesis : solar power as an energy source. Online: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. ISBN   9781118659892 . Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  13. Graduate School and Beyond: A Panel Discussion from the Conference Science Careers in Search of Women, Waterfall Glen Conference, April 6–7, 1989, Argonne National Laboratory, 1989.
  14. Singer, Stacey (May 17, 1996). "Chemist Has Leadership Formula". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  15. "Iota Sigma Pi National Honor Society for Women in Chemistry Professional Awards" . Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  16. Worthy, Sharon. "Argonne chemist wins national award for studies of plant energy". EurekaAlert. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  17. "PSE Awards & Recognitions". Physical Sciences and Engineering. Argonne National Laboratory. Archived from the original on 24 October 2014. Retrieved 24 October 2014.