Prof. Stanisław Penczek_fot. Magdalena Wiśniewska-Krasińska

Prof. Stanisław Penczek from the Centre for Molecular and Macromolecular Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Łódź has received the 2015 Foundation for Polish Science Prize in the field of chemical and material sciences for elaboration of the theory of ring-opening polymerization and its use for synthesis of biodegradable polymers.

Prof. Stanisław Penczek (born in 1934 in Warsaw)—a chemist specializing in organic chemistry and polymer chemistry, full member of the Polish Academy of Sciences, corresponding member of the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences. Founder and director (1974–2004) of the Department of Polymer Chemistry at the Centre for Molecular and Macromolecular Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Łódź. He is currently directing one of the research groups working at the department, and is an honorary professor of Jagiellonian University in Kraków and a lecturer in doctoral studies at the Faculty of Chemistry at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. He has also lectured in doctoral studies and numerous seminars abroad, e.g. in Paris, Stockholm, Tokyo, Kyoto, Ghent and Mainz.

Prof. Penczek was a member of the board of the Polish Chemical Society for nearly 20 years. In 2000 he organized and chaired the World Polymer Congress. In 2005 he was elected to the board of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry. In 2007–2009 he was the chair of the European Polymer Federation. He served for many years as the editor in chief of the online journal E-Polymers and a member of the editorial staff of numerous journals such as Biopolymers, Journal of Polymer Science, Die Makromolekulare Chemie, and Current Organic Chemistry. He currently chairs the editorial board of the journal Polimery.

He is the winner of numerous scientific honours, including awards of the Polish Academy of Sciences, a personal medal from the French Academy of Sciences, Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques (awarded by the Prime Minister of France), a personal medal from the Japanese Society of Polymer Science, the International Award of the Belgian Society of Polymer Science and Technology, the Otto Warburg Prize, and the Prize of the Prime Minister of Poland. He holds honorary doctorates from Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris and the Russian Academy of Sciences.

He has published 312 works, which have been cited by other researchers over 6,800 times, as well as several monographs. He has conducted over 100 lectures at plenary and sectional lectures at scientific conferences.

The Foundation for Polish Science Prize is awarded for Prof. Stanisław Penczek’s theory of ring-opening polymerization and its use for synthesis of biodegradable polymers. Ring-opening polymerization is an extremely important part of polymer chemistry. Heterocyclic compounds undergo this process, resulting in biodegradable polymers containing in their main chain such heteroatoms as oxygen, nitrogen and phosphorus. Prof. Penczek made his first discoveries in the field of ring-opening polymerization in 1976. Since then he has consistently conducted scientific research seeking to expand knowledge to include further aspects of this process: reaction mechanisms, kinetic schemata, and accompanying thermodynamic transformations. As a result, he has elaborated fundamental elements of the theory of ring-opening polymerization.

Prof. Penczek was the first to synthesize biodegradable polyesters of phosphoric acid using the method of ring-opening polymerization. He also applied his theoretical knowledge to synthesis of biodegradable polymers with industrial applications. In this field Prof. Penczek discovered a new class of catalysts more effective than the catalysts previously used.

Knowledge of fundamental processes in ring-opening polymerization became the basis for developing portions of the technology for production of biodegradable polymers. These are polymer derivatives of lactic acid, which is one of the products obtained from renewable raw materials. They are used primarily in biomedicine and long-acting drugs, and recently have also been used to obtain biodegradable stents.

The principles for ring-opening polymerization developed by Prof. Stanisław Penczek are among the major achievements in polymer chemistry. Elements of the theory he developed also influence other fields of polymer chemistry and are found in most monographic studies and academic textbooks worldwide. Prof. Penczek himself is regarded around the world as an authority in this field.