The Williams-Wright Award

2019 Awardee

The Coblentz Society is pleased to announce that Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Petrich of Roche Diabetes Care GmbH, Mannheim, Germany and Heidelberg University has been selected as the recipient of the 2019 Williams-Wright Award for Industrial Spectroscopy.  The award will be presented at the Pittsburgh Conference, to be held March 18-21, 2019 in Philadelphia, PA USA.  This award is presented to Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Petrich in recognition of his work in the development and application of biomedical applications of infrared-based clinical laboratory instrumentation in the fields of metabolism, rheumatology, cardiology, and veterinary medicine as well as pioneering applications of quantum cascade laser (QCL) technology to biology and medicine.  The Williams-Wright Award Symposium is held in honor of the awardee and immediately follows the presentation. The 2019 Award symposium will feature an Award Address by Prof. Petrich and talks from invited speakers Nicholas Stone (University of Exeter), Rohit Bhargava (Beckman Institute, University of Illinois), Niels Kröger-Lui (Bruker Optics), and Anita Mahadevan-Jansen (Vanderbilt University).                      

Wolfgang studied physics at the Heidelberg University, Germany and at the ETH Zurich, Switzerland; he subsequently obtained his Ph.D. for research in atomic physics and quantum optics at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics (Heidelberg, Germany).  He was awarded a Feodor-Lynen Research Fellowship by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to work as a postdoc on the topic of Bose-Einstein condensation with the later Nobel Laureates Eric Cornell and Carl Wieman at JILA, Colorado, USA.  

Wolfgang engaged in academic research for two additional years at the University of Constance, Germany before he joined Boehringer Mannheim GmbH (later Roche Diagnostics GmbH). Here, he substantially contributed to biomedical applications of infrared-based clinical laboratory instrumentation in the fields of metabolism, rheumatology, and cardiology, as well as in veterinary medicine. Notably, he and his team conducted by far the largest and most comprehensive study of infrared-spectroscopy of serum in medicine at that time. He also performed the first direct comparison between NIR-Raman spectroscopy and mid-infrared spectroscopy of serum under clinically identical conditions with respect to the quantification of analytes. Wolfgang and his teams also pioneered the application of quantum cascade laser (QCL) technology to biology and medicine. The use of QCLs almost became an obsession such that Wolfgang (in addition to his full-time employment at Roche!) founded a small research group on biophotonics at Heidelberg University’s Kirchhoff-Institute for Physics.  This endeavor turned out to be quite successful; not only was this group among the first teams worldwide to design and build QCL-based infrared microscopes, but it was the first team to apply the technique to the microspectroscopy of biomedical samples. They were able to show that the usual measurement times for thin tissue sections for histopathology could be reduced by two to three orders of magnitude when compared to FT-IR-based microspectroscopy.  A typical tissue thin section can now be measured in seconds or minutes rather than hours or days without sacrificing spatial or spectral quality, thus constituting a big step on the path from benchtop to bedside.  Recently, Wolfgang and his team were able to show fixed-frequency mid-infrared microscopy of living microorganisms in real time (i.e. 0.02 seconds/image) at VGA (640x480) format.

Today, Wolfgang is with Roche Diabetes Care GmbH, Mannheim, Germany and, in his spare time, continues to research and teach at Heidelberg University. He has authored and co-authored many publications and patents and has served as an organizer of many biophotonics conferences such as SPEC 2006 and SPIE’s biannual conference on biomedical vibrational spectroscopy at Photonics West.


History and Nomination Process

In 2018, The Coblentz Society celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Williams-Wright Award. The Coblentz Society's Williams-Wright Award is presented annually to an industrial spectroscopist who has made significant contributions to vibrational spectroscopy while working in industry. The work may include infrared and/or Raman spectroscopy, instrumental development as well as theory, and applications of vibrational spectroscopy. Government labs are not considered industry in this definition. No restrictions are placed on the selection of the Awardee because of age, sex, or nationality, but the Awardee must still be working at the time the award is presented. The award consists of a framed certificate and an honorarium. In order to ensure that the award is based on an independent evaluation of the candidate’s achievements, the selection is made by a committee chosen by the Coblentz Society.  The Award is presented each year at the Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy. 

The nomination should clearly state the significance of the contribution made by the nominee, e.g., the introduction of novel methods, techniques or theories; innovative work in the field of vibrational spectroscopy; significant improvement on existing methods, theory or techniques; or important impact on the field of vibrational spectroscopy arising from the volume of contributions in a specific area. The nomination packet should include a resume of the nominee's career including a publication list. Seconding letters to the nomination are useful, but not necessary. Files on nominees will be kept active for three years, after which the candidate must either be renominated with an updated file, or the file will be closed. Nominations close May 1, 2019 for the 2020 award.

Please send nomination packages via email to:

Nominations Chair

Recipients of the Williams-Wright Award

2018       Charles R. (Chuck) Anderson

2017       Slobodan Sasic

2016       Drouet Warren Vidrine

2015       Jagdeesh Bandekar

2014       Mike Doyle

2013       John Coates

2012       Richard Crocombe

2011       Howard Mark

2010       Patrick Treado

2009       Jerome J. Workman

2008       Rina Dukor

2007       Michael Carrabba

2006       Harry Owen

2005       Fran Adar

2004       Neil Lewis

2003       Neil Everall

2002       Isao Noda

2001       Raul Curbelo

2000       John A. Reffner

1999       Donald Kuehl

1998       Henry Buijs

1997       Michael J. Pelletier

1996       Robert G. Messerschmidt

1995       Michael R. Philpott

1994       John M. Chalmers

1993       Curtis Marcott

1992       Timothy Harris

1991       Robert J. Obremski

1990       John F. Rabolt

1989       D. Bruce Chase

1988       Darwin L. Wood

1987       A. Lee Smith

1986       Abe Savitsky/Joseph J. Barrett

1985       Clara D. Craver/Richard A. Nyquist

1984       Robert Jakobsen

1983       Harry Willis

1982       Robert Hannah

1981       Paul Wilks/James Harrick

1980       Jeanette Grasselli

1979       Norman Colthup

1978       Norman Wright