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Marion C Thurnauer

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Alma mater
University of Chicago

Garvan–Olin Medal


Marion Thurnauer

Notable awards
Garvan–Olin Medal

Alexander Trifunac


Marion C. Thurnauer

March 21, 1945 (age 79) Chattanooga, Tennessee (

Argonne National Laboratory, Chemistry Division

Argonne National Laboratory

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 of the Chemical Sciences and Engineering Division, and has received numerous awards for her work in chemistry and her support of women in science.


Early life and education

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

She received her B.A. (1968), M.S. (1969) and Ph.D. (1974) in chemistry, from the University of Chicago. 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.

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

Argonne National Laboratory

Thurnauer obtained a postdoctoral position in the Chemistry Division (CHM) of the 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. From 1993 to 1995 she was the Group Leader for the Photochemical Energy Sciences Group in the Chemistry Division. In 1995 she became the first woman director of CHM, and the first woman division director at Argonne. 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. She has published more than 100 articles and holds at least 2 patents. She has actively encouraged the careers of other women scientists such as Tijana Rajh, an award-winning Argonne nanoscientist from Yugoslavia.

Dr. Thurnaeur studies fundamental mechanisms in photophysics and photochemistry and their applications to the design of artificial photocatalytic systems. A major area of her research has been solar photochemical energy conversion in bacterial and oxygenic photosynthesis and model photosynthetic systems. Oxygenic photosynthesis is the main process providing energy to the biosphere of the planet, creating the protective ozone layer and consuming carbon dioxide. 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. She has also engaged in research relating to heavy elements chemistry, separations chemistry, radiation chemistry, and environmental management.

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. The first year involved college women, but in ensuing years the program has worked with high school students.

After the second conference, Argonne leadership and women scientists launched the Argonne Women in Science and Technology (WIST) program. 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." 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.


  • NATO Grant for International Collaborative Research with Professor K. Mobius and Dr. R. Furrer, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, West Germany, 1984
  • Argonne National Laboratory Pacesetter Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Organization of the Conference, "Science Careers in Search of Women", 1989
  • ANL Director's Award for Extraordinary Effort involved in Organizing “Science Careers in Search of Women” Conference, 1990
  • Award of Merit of Chicago Association of Technological Societies, 1990
  • University of Chicago Award for Distinguished Performance at Argonne, 1991
  • YWCA Outstanding Women Leaders of DuPage County Award, 1996
  • Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1997
  • Agnes Fay Morgan Research Award by Iota Sigma Pi, National Honor Society for Women in Chemistry, 1997
  • Francis P. Garvan-John M. Olin Medal Award, National American Chemical Society, 2002
  • Science Careers in Search of Women Conference, Founders Award, 2007
  • University of Chicago - Argonne Pinnacle of Education Award, 2007, for "leadership in science through the Division of Educational Programs."
  • Council for Chemical Research Diversity Award, 2010
  • References

    Marion C. Thurnauer Wikipedia

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