Cynthia M. Friend

The Kavli Foundation

Primary Section: 14, Chemistry
Membership Type: Member (elected 2019)


Cynthia Friend is a physical chemist known for her work on surface chemistry and catalysis. Her research establishes the fundamental underpinnings of heterogeneous catalysis, particularly of dilute Au- and Ag-alloys. She is currently the T.W. Richards Professor of Chemistry and a Professor of Materials Science in the Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University. Friend, born in Hastings Nebraska, joined the Harvard faculty in 1982 after earning her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 1981. She graduated from the University of California, Davis in 1977 with a degree in Chemistry, and was a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University in Chemical Engineering. Friend is currently Director of the IMASC Energy Frontier Research Center at Harvard and Vice-Chair of the Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee (BESAC) for the U.S. Department of Energy. She was previously Associate Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard, the first and only female Chair of the Harvard Chemistry Dept. and was Assoc. Director of SLAC National Laboratory at Stanford.  Due to her involvement in scientific innovation, she was elected to the Board of Directors of Bruker Instruments in 2016. Professor Friend is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association of the Advancement of Science, and the American Chemical Society and a recipient of a Humboldt Senior Research Fellowship in 2007.

Research Interests

Cynthia Friend and her research group focus on the development of solutions to important problems in energy usage and environmental chemistry based on deep understanding gained from fundamental surface chemistry. Her recent research on sustainable chemical processes has potential for enhanced energy efficiency in chemical production. Friend has made key contributions in defining gold surface chemistry through her research in heterogeneous catalysis that spans a wide range of materials complexity and a vast pressure range-from ultrahigh vacuum to practical catalytic reaction conditions at atmospheric pressure and, most recently, the liquid phase. The Friend group has developed a detailed understanding of the surface chemistry underlying key catalytic transformations by integrating molecular imaging, reactivity studies, surface spectroscopy and cutting-edge theoretical tools.

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