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K.C. 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 went to England where he spent two years learning English and preparing to enter the University. He studied chemistry at the University of London. (B.Sc., 1969, Bedford College; Ph.D. 1972, University College, with Professors F. Sondheimer and P.J. Garratt) In 1972, he moved to the United States and, after postdoctoral appointments at Columbia University (1972-1973, Professor T.J. Katz) and Harvard University (1973-1976, Professor E.J. Corey), 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 was Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, and The Scripps Research Institute where he was the Darlene Shiley Professor of Chemistry, and Chairman of the Department of Chemistry. In 1996, he was appointed Aline W. and L.S. Skaggs Professor of Chemical Biology in The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology, The Scripps Research Institute. In May 2013, Dr. Nicolaou joined Rice University as the Harry C. and Olga K. Wiess Professor of Chemistry in the BioScience Research Collaborative. He serves on the Scientific Advisory Board of numerous scientific journals and is an advisor to several biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. K.C. Nicolaou's research interests include the chemistry, biology, and medicine of natural and designed molecules. The group's research activities are centered around the total synthesis of architecturally novel and biologically important natural products which serve as opportunities for discovery and invention of novel synthetic strategies, methods, and enabling technologies for biology and medicine. He is the author or co-author of more than 760 publications, 73 patents and 5 books. Among K.C. Nicolaou's Awards and Honors are the ACS A.C. Cope Scholar Award (USA), the ACS Award for Creative Work in Synthetic Organic Chemistry (USA), the Janssen Prize (Belgium), the ACS Nichols Medal (USA), the ACS Guenther Award in the Chemistry of Natural Products (USA), the Inhoffen Medal (Germany), the ACS Linus Pauling Medal (USA), the ACS Esselen Award for Chemistry in the Public Interest (USA), the Yamada Prize (Japan), the Aspirin Prize for Solidarity through Chemistry (Spain), the Max Tishler Prize (Harvard University, USA), the Paul Karrer Gold Medal (Switzerland), the Ernst Schering Prize (Germany), the Nagoya Gold Medal of Organic Chemistry (Nagoya University, Japan), the Tetrahedron Prize for Creativity in Organic Chemistry (International), the Centenary Prize (Royal Society of Chemistry, UK), the ACS Nobel Laureate Signature Award for Graduate Education in Chemistry (USA), the ACS A.C. Cope Award (USA), the Benjamin Franklin Medal (USA), the Rolf Sammet Guest Professorship (Germany), the Chinese Academy of Sciences Einstein Professorship, the Nemitsas Prize in Chemistry (Cyprus) and several honorary degrees. He is a Member of the New York Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Member of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), a Corresponding Member of the Academy of Athens, a Member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, a Member of the American Philosophical Society, and a Foreign Member of the Royal Society of London.