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Associated Press
President Barack Obama, right, presents the National Medal of Science to Peter J. Stang from the University of Utah during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Oct., 21, 2011.

SALT LAKE CITY — Chinese President Xi Jinping honored University of Utah chemist Peter J. Stang and six other foreign scientists with the country’s 2015 International Science and Technology Cooperation Award.

“I said ‘thank you’ to him in Chinese and he smiled,” Stang said in a statement, recalling the Jan. 8 award ceremony in the Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

Stang, a U. distinguished professor of chemistry, has now been given major awards and shaken hands with leaders of the world’s two most powerful nations: Xi after the recent award and President Barack Obama in 2011, when Stang was given a National Medal of Science.

This is Stang’s second award from China in recent months. Last fall, he went to China to accept the country’s Friendship Award, which is that nation’s “highest award for foreign experts who have made outstanding contributions to the country’s economic and social progress.”

Stang, an organic chemist, joined the U. in 1969 and served as dean of science from 1997-2007 and chairman of the chemistry department from 1989-95.

He has collaborated with Chinese scientists, worked closely with them as editor of the Journal of the American Chemical Society and served as a foreign member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Stang is a pioneer in supramolecular chemistry — the spontaneous formation of large, complex molecules from predesigned building-block molecules. Such molecules have uses in cancer treatment, drug delivery and oil refining.