The Scientific Advisory Board constitutes the core of an international think tank of experts from a broad range of disciplines addressing issues vital to achieving critical outcomes in research. Several Nobel laureates are among the members.
Frances Arnold
2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry | California Institute of Technology, United States


Frances Arnold is an internationally recognized American scientist and engineer. She pioneered methods of directed evolution to create useful biological systems, including enzymes, metabolic pathways, genetic regulatory circuits, and organisms. She is the Dick and Barbara Dickinson Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering, and Biochemistry at the California Institute of Technology, where she studies evolution and its applications in science, medicine, chemicals and energy. She earned her B.S. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from Princeton University in 1979 and her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. There, she did her postdoctoral work in biophysical chemistry before coming to Caltech in 1986.

In 2018, she became the fift woman ever to receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Her work has also been recognized by many other awards, including the 2011 Draper Prize and a 2011 National Medal of Technology and Innovation. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011. Arnold has the rare honor of being elected to all three National Academies in the United States - The National Academy of Sciences, The National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. Arnold is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Microbiology and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.

A member of the Advisory Board of the DOE-funded Joint BioEnergy Institute and the Packard Fellowships in Science and Engineering, Arnold also serves on the President's Advisory Council of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). She is currently serving as a judge for The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, 2013.

Arnold's Caltech research is in green chemistry and alternative energy, including the development of highly active enzymes (cellulolytic and biosynthetic enzymes) and microorganisms to convert renewable biomass to fuels and chemicals. She is co-inventor on numerous patents and co-founded Gevo, Inc. in 2005.

[Video] Innovation by Evolution: The Expanding Enzyme Universe Presentation at the Molecular Frontiers Symposium in Gothenburg 2015

[Video] Biological Design by Evolution Presentation at the Molecular Frontiers Symposium in Stockholm 2012

Photo by Christopher Michael, under CC BY SA 4.0 license

Piero Baglioni
University of Florence, Italy


Piero Baglioni is an Italian chemist and University professor at the University of Florence. Baglioni produced several innovations in the field of both inorganic and organic colloids. Baglioni is the author of more than 250 publications on books and largely diffused international journals. He is also the author of 16 patents for the preparation of aqueous suspensions at high concentration of particulate, for the therapy and photodynamic diagnosis of tumors, for the conservation of the cultural heritage, for the setup of a new process for the treatment of textile industrial waste, for production of emulsions from bio crude oil, for production of nanoparticles and novel nano-coatings via flame-spraying, and using homogeneous and heterogeneous solutions.

Photo by Torbjörn Zadig

Chunli Bai
The Chinese Academy of Sciences, P.R. China


Bai Chunli is a Chinese scientist. He graduated from Peking University in 1978. In 1981 he received a master's degree of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and in 1985 earned a doctor’s degree. From 1985 to 1987, he was at the California Institute of Technology, engaged in postdoctoral research.He is a professor, a Ph.D. degree, an academician of Chinese Academy of Sciences and the The World Academy of Sciences. Currently he is President of The World Academy of Sciences, President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the cochairman of China Association for Science and Technology and the president of University of Chinese Academy of Sciences.

He mainly engages in the field of important nanotechnology scanning tunneling microscopy study, his work focuses on the scanning probe microscopy techniques, and molecular nano-structure, and nanotechnology research. He has published a large number of books in both Chinese and English. He was the alternate committee member of the 15th and the 16th CPC central committee, and the sixth vice president of the China Association for Science and Technology. In 2011, he became an honorary member of Chinese Association for Science and Technology.

He is now a part-time professor of Peking University, Tsinghua University, University of Science and Technology of China, Nankai University, and China University of Geosciences, and is also a visiting professor at Liaoning Normal University andNanjing Audit University.

Photo by Torbjörn Zadig

Elizabeth Blackburn
2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine


Elizabeth Blackburn, is an Australian-American Nobel laureate who is the former President of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Previously she was a biological researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, who studied the telomere, a structure at the end of chromosomes that protects the chromosome. In 1984, Blackburn co-discovered telomerase, the enzyme that replenishes the telomere, with Carol W. Greider. For this work, she was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, sharing it with Greider and Jack W. Szostak.

Blackburn’s research involves further investigation of the genetic composition and cellular functions of telomeres and telomerase, as well as studies on the interactions of these cellular components and their roles in cancer and aging. She is well-known for her book “The telomere effect”, which deals with how the state of a person’s telomeres is influenced by lifestyle.

In addition to the Nobel Prize, Blackburn has received nearly every major award in science, including the Lasker, Gruber and Gairdner prizes. In 2007, Blackburn was listed among Time Magazine's The TIME 100 – The People Who Shape Our World. She is a member of numerous prestigious scientific societies, including the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine and the Royal Society of London.

Photo provided by Science History Institute, under CC BY SA 3.0 license

Carlos Bustamante
University of California, Berkeley, United States


Carlos Bustamante uses novel methods of single-molecule visualization, such as scanning force microscopy, to study the structure and function of nucleoprotein assemblies. His laboratory is developing methods of single-molecule manipulation, such as optical and magnetic tweezers, to characterize the elasticity of DNA, to induce the mechanical unfolding of individual protein and RNA molecules, and to investigate the machine-like behavior of molecular motors. 

Photo courtesy of UC Berkeley, College of Chemistry

Jennifer Doudna
2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry | UC Berkeley & Howard Hughes Med. Inst., United States


UC Berkeley and Howard Hughes Medical InstituteJennifer Doudna is professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering and the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. Doudna has been an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) since 1997, and since 2018 holds the position of senior investigator at the Gladstone Institutes as well as that of professor at the University of California, San Francisco.

Doudna has been a leading figure in what is referred to as the "CRISPR revolution" for her fundamental work and leadership in developing CRISPR-mediated genome editing. In 2012, Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier were the first to propose that CRISPR/Cas9 (enzymes from bacteria that control microbial immunity) could be used for programmable editing of genomes, which is now considered one of the most significant discoveries in the history of biology.

[Video] CRISPR Systems: From adaptive immunity to genome editing Presentation at the Molecular Frontiers Symposium in Stockholm 2017

Photo by Christopher Michael, under CC BY SA 4.0 license

Ben Feringa
2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry | University of Groningen, Netherlands


Ben Feringa is the Jacobus van 't Hoff Distinguished Professor of Molecular Sciences at the Stratingh Institute for Chemistry, University of Groningen, Netherlands, and an Academy Professor and Chair of Board of the Science Division of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences. He was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, together with Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Jean-Pierre Sauvage, "for the design and synthesis of molecular machines".
The early introduction of chiroptical molecular switches, based on the design of the first chiral overcrowded alkenes and the demonstration of optically controlled molecular switching and amplification of chirality in mesoscopic systems, lead to molecular rotary motors in which chirality plays a critical role in achieving the same function achieved by nature, for example, the unidirectional rotation of retinal in rhodopsin. This work led to the discovery of the world's first unidirectional molecular rotary motor and this work has been laying the ground-work for a key component of future molecular nanotechnology i.e. nanomachines and nanorobots powered by molecular motors. Feringa's design and synthesis of nanomolecular machines, specifically molecular switches and molecular motors, have initiated major novel approaches towards complex and dynamic chemical systems and the dynamic control of function.

Wybe, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Harry B Gray
California Institute of Technology, United States


Harry B Gray is the Arnold O. Beckman Professor of Chemistry at California Institute of Technology. As a pioneer of the important and thriving field of bioinorganic chemistry, he has made many key contributions, the most important of which is the development of fundamental understanding of electron transfer in biological systems, at the atomic level.


Photo provided by Science History Institute, under CC BY SA 3.0 license

Roald Hoffmann
1981 Nobel Prize in Chemistry | Cornell University, United States


Roald Hoffmann has investigated both organic and inorganic substances, developing computational tools and methods such as the extended Hückel method, which he proposed in 1963. He also developed, with Robert Burns Woodward, rules for elucidating reaction mechanisms (the Woodward-Hoffmann rules). He also introduced the isolobal principle.

In 1981, Hoffmann received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, which he shared with Kenichi Fukui "for their theories, developed independently, concerning the course of chemical reactions"

[Video] A Multidimensional Index of Greenness Presentation at the Molecular Frontiers Symposium in Stockholm 2012

David Julius
2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine | University of California, United States

David Julius is an American physiologist and Nobel Prize laureate known for his work on molecular mechanisms of pain sensation and heat, including the characterization of the TRPV1 and TRPM8 receptors that detect capsaicin, menthol, and temperature.
In 2021, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly with Ardem Patapoutian for their discoveries of receptors for temperature and touch.

Photo by Steve Babuljak (Press kit from UCSF, 2021 Nobel Prize) 

Reiko Kuroda
Chubu University and University of Tokyo, Japan


Reiko Kuroda is a Japanese chemist who is a professor at the Department of Life Sciences at University of Tokyo. Her field of research is primarily chirality within both inorganic chemistry and organic chemistry. In 2006, Dr Kuroda was appointed to serve as a governor for the Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre. On June 10, 2009, Dr Kuroda was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in its class for chemistry.

[Video] Mirror-image animals - mechanical manipulation and a point mutation Presentation at the Molecular Frontiers Symposium in Stockholm 2017

[Video] Left and Right in nature - Why does it matter? Presentation at the Molecular Frontiers Symposium in Tokyo 2016

Photo by Torbjörn Zadig

Robert Langer
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States


Robert Langer  is an American engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, inventor and the David H. Koch Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was formerly the Germeshausen Professor of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering and maintains activity in the Department of Chemical Engineering and the Department of Biological Engineering at MIT. He is also a faculty member of the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology and the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. He is a widely recognized and cited researcher in biotechnology, especially in the fields of drug delivery systems and tissue engineering. According to Web of Science he has been cited nearly 100,000 times and has an h-index of 155 as of Jan 23, 2014. Langer's research laboratory at MIT is the largest biomedical engineering lab in the world, maintaining about $10 million in annual grants and over 100 researchers.

[Video] Synthetic Tissues Presentation at the Molecular Frontiers Symposium in Stockholm 2017

[Video] Advances in chemistry and its implications for studying and treating brain disease Presentation at the Molecular Frontiers Symposium in Stockholm 2014

Photo by Per Thorén

Jean-Marie Lehn
1987 Nobel Prize in Chemistry | Inst of Science and Supramolecular Eng., France


Jean-Marie Lehn received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry together with Donald Cram and Charles Pedersen in 1987 for his synthesis of cryptands. Lehn was an early innovator in the field of supramolecular chemistry, i.e. the chemistry of host-guest molecular assemblies created by intermolecular interactions, and continues to innovate in this field. His group has published in excess of 900 peer-reviewed articles in chemistry literature.

Photo by Martina Steiner, under CC BY SA 3.0 license

Michal Levitt
2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry | Stanford University, United States


Michael Levitt is a biophysicist and a professor of structural biology at Stanford University, a position he has held since 1987. His research is in computational biology and he is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Levitt received the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, together with Martin Karplus and Molecular Frontiers Scientific Advisory Board member Arieh Warshel, for "the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems"

Photo by Per Thorén

Sara Linse
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences | Lund University, Sweden


Sara Snogerup Linse is professor of physical chemistry at Lund University in Sweden. Her research the biophysical chemistry of proteins, including binding, interaction and structure. She is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences since 2004, and a member of the Nobel committee for Chemistry since 2012.

Photo by Torbjörn Zadig

Roderick MacKinnon
2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry | The Rockefeller University, United States


Roderick MacKinnon is a professor of Molecular Neurobiology and Biophysics at Rockefeller University who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry together with Peter Agre in 2003 for his work on the structure and operation ofion channels.

Anja-Verena Mudring
Aarhus University, Denmark and Stockholm University, Sweden


Prof. Anja-Verena Mudring is Head of Physical Materials Chemistry at Stockholm University, Sweden, since summer 2016. She studied chemistry at the Friedrich Wilhelms Universität in Bonn, Germany, and carried out her doctoral thesis work at the Max-Planck Institute for Solid State Research in Stuttgart, Germany. 2001-2003 she worked as a Feodor-Lynen fellow at the Ames Laboratory, a US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In spring 2003 she started her independent scientific career as a Liebig fellow at the Universität zu Köln. After having completed her habilitation in 2006, she moved to the Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany, where she headed the Materials Synthesis and Characterization group and became Chair of Inorganic Chemistry III. At RUB she also led the interdisciplinary Research Department Interfacial Systems Chemistry. During that time she established a EU-Marie Curie Training network on luminescent materials (LUMINET) and founded a COST action on ionic liquids (EXIL). In 2013 she accepted the offer as the Glenn Murphy Professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department at Iowa State University and was the strategic hire for the Critical Materials Institute, a US DOE Energy Innovation Hub, led by the Ames Laboratory.

Prof. Mudring is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Alabama, USA. Prof. Mudring has organized a number of national and international conferences, most recently the 2016 Gordon Conference on Ionic Liquids and the 2017 Rare Earth Research Conference (RERC). She has received numerous awards and fellowships such as the H.C. Starck award in solid state science from the GDCh, was a Feodor Lynen Fellow and held a Humboldt fellowship from the Polish Science Foundation (FNP). She was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2008. Her research has been sponsored by the ERC through two grants, the European Commission, the DFG (German Science Foundation), DOE (US Department of Energy) and NSF (US National Science Foundation) as well as industry. She is currently receiving support from the Vetenskapsraadet (VR, Swedish Research Council) and the Carl Tryggers Stiftelse. She most recently has received the Göran Gustafsson prize in Chemistry 2017 given out by the Royal Swedish Academy of Science. Since 2008 she is serving as an Associate Editor of the ACS journal "Crystal Growth & Design". She has authored over 200 peer-reviewed publications (h-index: 39, >4100 citations).

Ryoji Noyori
2001 Nobel Prize in Chemistry | Nagoya University, Japan


Ryōji Noyori is a Japanese chemist. He won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2001, sharing half of the prize with William S. Knowles for the study of chirally catalyzed hydrogenations; the second half of the Prize went to K. Barry Sharpless for his study in chirally catalyzed oxidation reactions (Sharpless epoxidation).

Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive

C.N.R. Rao
Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, India


Chintamani Nagesa Ramachandra Rao FRS, also known as C.N.R. Rao, is an Indian chemist who has worked mainly in solid-state and structural chemistry. He currently serves as the Head of the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister of India. Rao has honorary doctorates from 60 universities from around the world. He has authored around 1,500 research papers and 45 scientific books. He is the recipient of most of the major scientific awards, and is member of all major scientific organisations.

On 16 November 2013, the Government of India announced his selection for Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award in India, making him the third scientist after C.V. Raman and A. P. J. Abdul Kalam to receive the award. He, along with the legendary cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, was conferred the award on 4 February 2014 by President Pranab Mukherjee in a special ceremony in the Durbar Hall of the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Photo by Torbjörn Zadig

Richard Schrock
2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry | Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States


In 2005, Richard Schrock received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, with Robert H. Grubbs and Yves Chauvin, for his work in the area of olefin metathesis, an organic synthesis technique. Schrock was the first to elucidate the structure and mechanism of so-called 'black box' olefin metathesis catalysts. Initial work at DuPont involved the synthesis of tantalum alkylidenes, alkylidenes being a crucial resting state in the catalytic cycle of olefin metathesis. His work at MIT has led to a detailed understanding of a group of molybdenum alkylidenes and alkylidynes which are active olefin and alkyne methathesis catalysts, respectively. Schrock has done much work to demonstrate that metallacyclobutanes are the key intermediate in olefin metathesis, with metallacyclobutadienes being the key intermediate in alkyne methathesis.

K.Barry Sharpless
2022 and 2001 Nobel Prizes in Chemistry | Scripps Institute, United States


Barry Sharpless is an American chemist known for his work on stereoselective reactions. He was awarded a half-share of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2001 for his work on stereoselective oxidation reactions (Sharpless epoxidation, Sharpless asymmetric dihydroxylation, Sharpless oxyamination). The other half of the year's Prize was shared between William S. Knowles and Ryōji Noyori (for their work on stereoselective hydrogenation). He also successfully epoxidized (using racemic tartaric acid) a C-86 Buckminster Fullerene ball, employing p-Cresol as solvent. 

In 2022, he was awarded a second Nobel Prize in Chemistry, for coining the concept of click chemistry for a functional form of chemistry, where molecular building blocks snap together quickly and efficiently, and discovering what has become the crown jewel of click chemistry: the copper catalysed azide-alkyne cycloaddition. Click chemistry involves a set of highly selective, exothermic reactions which occur under mild conditions.

[Video] Click Chemistry: Recent Advances Used in Biomedicine Presentation at the Molecular Frontiers Symposium in Singapore 2012

Photo by Per Thorén

Jack Szostak
2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine | Univ of Chicago, Harvard Medical School, HHMI, United States


Jack Szostak is Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and Alexander Rich Distinguished Investigator at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. He was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, along with Elizabeth Blackburn and Carol W. Greider, for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres.

Szostak is credited with the construction of the world's first yeast artificial chromosome. That achievement helped scientists to map the location of genes in mammals and to develop techniques for manipulating genes. His achievements in this area are also instrumental to the Human Genome Project.

His discoveries have helped to clarify the events that lead to chromosomal recombination—the reshuffling of genes that occurs during meiosis—and the function of telomeres, the specialized DNA sequences at the tips of chromosomes.

In the early 90s his laboratory shifted its research direction and focused on studying RNA enzymes, which had been recently discovered by Cech and Altman. He developed the technique of in vitro evolution of RNA (also developed independently by Gerald Joyce) which enables the discovery of RNAs with desired functions through successive cycles of selection, amplification and mutation. He isolated the first aptamer (term he used for the first time). He isolated RNA enzymes with RNA ligase activity directly from random sequence (project of David Bartel).

Currently his lab focuses on the challenges of understanding the origin of life on Earth, and the construction of artificial cellular life in the laboratory.

[Video] Origin of life on earth and design of alternatives Presentation at the Molecular Frontiers Symposium in Stockholm 2017

[Video] Reconstructing the first cells Presentation at Molecular the Frontiers Symposium in Stockholm 2011

Photo by Per Thorén

Craig Venter
J. Craig Venter Institute, United States


John Craig Venter is an American biologist and entrepreneur. He is known for being one of the first to sequence the human genome and for creating the first cell with a synthetic genome. Venter founded Celera Genomics, The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) and the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), and is now working at JCVI to create synthetic biological organisms. He is a co-founder of Synthetic Genomics, Inc. (SGI) and Human Longevity, Inc. (HLI). SGI is a privately held company developing products and solutions including sustainable bio-fuels, vaccines, biotherapeutics and transplantable organs. HLI is a genomic-based, health intelligence company empowering proactive healthcare.

Dr Venter was listed on Time magazine's 2007 and 2008 Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world. In 2010, the British magazine New Statesman listed Craig Venter at 14th in the list of "The World's 50 Most Influential Figures 2010".

[Video] Keynote lecture at the Molecular Frontiers Symposium in Singapore 2012

[Video] Synthetic Genomics Presentation at the Molecular Frontiers Symposium in Stockholm 2011

Photo from a Public Library of Science journal, under CC BY 2.5 license

Arieh Warshel
2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry | University of Southern California, United States


Arieh Warshel  is an Israeli-American Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Southern California. He received the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, together with Michael Levitt and Martin Karplus for "the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems".

Photo by Torbjörn Zadig

George Whitesides
Harvard University, United States 


George M. Whitesides is an American chemist and professor of chemistry at Harvard University. He is best known for his work in the areas of NMR spectroscopy, organometallic chemistry, molecular self-assembly, soft lithography, microfabrication, microfluidics, and nanotechnology. Whitesides is also known for publishing his "outline system" for writing scientific papers. As of December 2011, he has the highest Hirsch index rating of all living chemists.

[Video] Soft robots Presentation at the Molecular Frontiers Symposium in Gothenburg 2015

Photo by Douglas A. Lockard, under CC BY SA 3.0 license

Torsten Wiesel
1981 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine | Karolinska Institute, Sweden


Torsten Nils Wiesel is a Swedish neurophysiologist. Together with David H. Hubel, he received the 1981 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, for their discoveries concerning information processing in the visual system; the prize was shared with Roger W. Sperry for his independent research on the cerebral hemispheres.

Photo by Markus Marcetic for Young Acedemy of Sweden, under CC BY SA 4.0 license

Omar Yaghi
University of California, Berkeley, United States

Omar Yaghi is the pinoeer in reticular chemistry, a new field of chemistry concerned with stitching molecular building blocks together by strong bonds to make open frameworks. His most recognizable work is in the design and production of new classes of compounds known as metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), zeolitic imidazolate frameworks (ZIFs), and covalent organic frameworks (COFs). MOFs are noted for their extremely high surface areas (5640 m2/g for MOF-177) and very low crystalline densities (0.17 g·cm−3 for COF-108). Yaghi also pioneered molecular weaving, and synthesized the world’s first material woven at the atomic and molecular levels (COF-505).
He has been leading the effort in applying these materials in clean energy technologies including hydrogen and methane storage, carbon dioxide capture and storage, as well as harvesting water from desert air.

Watch Professor Yaghis inspiring talk "Harvesting Water from Desert Air" at the Molecular Frontiers Symposium "Planet Earth" in Stockholm, Sweden, 2019!

Photo by Boasap at the English Wikipedia, under CC BY SA 3.0 license

Ada Yonath
2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry | Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel


Ada Yonath is best known for her pioneering work on the structure of the ribosome. She is the current director of the Helen and Milton A. Kimmelman Center for Biomolecular Structure and Assembly of the Weizmann Institute of Science. In 2009, she received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry along with Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Thomas A. Steitz, for her studies on the structure and function of the ribosome. 

Photo by Hareesh N. Nampoothiri, under under CC BY SA 3.0 license

Richard Zare
Stanford University, United States


Richard N. Zare is the Marguerite Blake Wilbur Professor in Natural Science at Stanford University. He was born on November 19, 1939 in Cleveland, Ohio, and is a graduate of Harvard University, where he received his B.A. degree in chemistry and physics in 1961 and his Ph.D. in chemical physics in 1964. In 1965 he became an assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but moved to the University of Colorado in 1966, remaining there until 1969 while holding joint appointments in the departments of chemistry, and physics and astrophysics. In 1969 he was appointed to a full professorship in the chemistry department at Columbia University, becoming the Higgins Professor of Natural Science in 1975. In 1977 he moved to Stanford University. He was named Chair of the Department of Chemistry at Stanford University in 2005. In 2006 he was named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Professor.

Professor Zare is renowned for his research in the area of laser chemistry, resulting in a greater understanding of chemical reactions at the molecular level. By experimental and theoretical studies he has made seminal contributions to our knowledge of molecular collision processes and contributed very significantly to solving a variety of problems in chemical analysis. His development of laser induced fluorescence as a method for studying reaction dynamics has been widely adopted in other laboratories.

[Video] Making Materials That Hate Water To Love Water: The Transformative Power of Chemistry Presentation at the Molecular Frontiers Symposium in Gothenburg 2015

Photo by Torbjörn Zadig

In Memoriam with gratitude for their wise counsel and scientific contributions

Benoit Mandelbrot
(1924-2010) Légion d'honneur | Yale University, United States


Benoit Mandelbrot is widely regarded as one of the most impactful mathematicians of all time, recognized for his contribution to the field of fractal geometry, which included coining the word "fractal", as well as developing a theory of "roughness and self-similarity" in nature. He was one of the first to use computer graphics to create and display fractal geometric images, leading to his discovery of the Mandelbrot set in 1980. He showed how visual complexity can be created from simple rules, and he claimed that things typically considered to be "rough", a "mess", or "chaotic", such as clouds or shorelines, actually had a "degree of order". His math and geometry-centered research included contributions to such fields as statistical physics, meteorology, hydrology, geomorphology, anatomy, taxonomy, neurology, linguistics, information technology, computer graphics, economics, geology, medicine, physical cosmology, engineering, chaos theory, econophysics, metallurgy, and the social sciences.

Mandelbrot's awards include the Wolf Prize for Physics in 1993, the Lewis Fry Richardson Prize of the European Geophysical Society in 2000, the Japan Prize in 2003, and the Einstein Lectureship of the American Mathematical Society in 2006.

Photo by Rama - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.0 fr

Sir John Meurig Thomas
(1932-2020) University of Cambridge, United Kingdom


Sir John Meurig Thomas, FRS, Hon FREng, Hon FRSE, was the 1920 Professor and Head of the Dept of Physical Chemistry at University of Cambridge for 9 years from 1978.

He then became Director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain and of the Davy Faraday Research Laboratories London, before returning to Cambridge as Master of Peterhouse (1993-2002) during which he carried out much of his research with Prof BFG Johnson. He pursued research in solid-state chemistry and was genuinely interested in popularising science (He was knighted in 1991).

He had numereous awards and prizes including gold medals from the Royal Soc, ACS (Willard Gibbs), Italian Chem Soc (Natta) Stanford Univ (Linus Pauling), the Zewail gold medal for molecular research (2015) and the Blaise Pascal medal of the European Academy of Sciences (2014) for the chemistry of materials. A new mineral, meurigite, was named in his honour in 1995.

Obituary in The Guardian Nov 27, 2020 by Philip Ball

[Video] Can Selective Catalysts Deliver Clean Technology and Sustainability? Presentation at the Molecular Frontiers Symposium in Stockholm 2012

Francis Allotey
(1932-2017) Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Ghana

Francis Kofi Ampenyin Allotey was a Ghanaian internationally respected mathematical physicist. He was known for the "Allotey Formalism" which arose from his work on soft X-ray spectroscopy. A founding fellow of the African Academy of Sciences, in 1974 he became the first Ghanaian full professor of mathematics and head of the Department of Mathematics at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.

Professor Allotey was the President of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences and was also a member of a number of prestigious international scientific organizations including membership of the International Institute of Theoretical and Applied Physics (ICTP) Scientific Council since 1996.

He was the Chairman of Board of Trustees of the Accra Institute of Technology (AIT)

Sir Aaron Klug
(1926-2018) | 1982 Nobel Prize in Chemistry | United Kingdom

Sir Aaron Klug was a British chemist and biophysicist, and winner of the 1982 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his development of crystallographic electron microscopy and his structural elucidation of biologically important nucleic acid-protein complexes. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1988.

Sir Harold Kroto
(1939-2016) 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry | Florida State University, United States


Sir Harold (Harry) Walter Kroto was the Francis Eppes Professor of Chemistry at the Florida State University, which he joined in 2004. Prior to that, he spent a large part of his career at the University of Sussex, where he held an emeritus professorship.

He shared the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Robert Curl and Richard Smalley, for their discovery of fullerenes.

[Video] The Climate Change Crisis Presentation at the Molecular Frontiers Symposium in Stockholm 2012

[Video] Nobel Address Presentation at the Molecular Frontiers Symposium in Singapore 2012

Susan Lindquist
(1949-2016) Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, MIT, United States


Susan Lindquist was a professor of biology at MIT specializing in molecular biology, particularly the protein folding problem within a family of molecules known as heat-shock proteins, and prions. Lindquist was a member and former Director of the Whitehead Institute and was awarded the National Medal of Science in 2010.

[Video] Lamarck was right: better living through chemistry Presentation at the Molecular Frontiers Symposium in Gothenburg 2015

[Video] From yeast cells to patient neurons Presentation at the Molecular Frontiers Symposium in Stockholm 2014

Roger Y. Tsien
(1952-2016) 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry | Univ. of California, San Diego, United States

Roger Tsien was a Chinese American biochemist. He was a professor at the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, San Diego. He was awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize in chemistry "for his discovery and development of the green fluorescent protein (GFP) with two other chemists: Martin Chalfie of Columbia University and Osamu Shimomura of Boston University and Marine Biological Laboratory.

Ahmed Zewail
(1946-2016) 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry | California Inst. of Technology, United States

Ahmed Zewail was an Egyptian scientist, known as the "father of femtochemistry". He won the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on femtochemistry and became the first Egyptian scientist who won Nobel Prize in a scientific field. He was the Linus Pauling Chair Professor Chemistry, Professor of Physics and the director of the Physical Biology Centre for the Ultrafast Science and Technology at the California Institute of Technology.

[Video] Seeing with Electrons in Four Dimensions Presentation at the Molecular Frontiers Symposium in Gothenburg 2015


By Bengt Nordén
Chair Professor of Physical Chemistry
Chalmers University of Technology
Gothenburg, Sweden

My Friend Ahmed and I 

Ahmed and I were close – at least that is what I always felt – he called me his big brother (I was one year his senior). While I was more direct about most things, even personal matters, he was generally more difficult to read out and, everybody I know agrees, intrinsically quite private. However, we shared the same sense of humor and the same curious, I would say almost childlike, mindset, when approaching scientific problems – though his was that of a genius.  Ahmed was despite his deeper felt reservation, very social, with an eye for everybody, whether janitor or Nobel laureate. To really see people is something I think I learnt very much from him and indeed find very important in life. His social ability was always combined with humor: I remember many a good laugh together. At the same time he was reflective and a deep philosopher – often finding scholarly parallels with ancient Egyptian or Greek science.

We met more frequently after his Nobel prize, when our families had got to know each other in Stockholm. Actually, the first time we met was only some five years before the prize. Ahmed was touring in Sweden giving seminars at the universities and the story, as Ahmed loved to tell it, goes as follows. My friend, and former colleague from my alma mater university of Lund, then Chair Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at KTH in Stockholm, Ingmar Grenthe, one day called me and suggested I host Ahmed Zewail for a seminar at Chalmers. I should have said “Zewail who?” and Ingmar quite upset asked how I could be ignorant of the most famous laser spectroscopist in the world? My ignorance turned out not to be true though, although I was confused at the moment: as Ahmed and I found out when we met in my office some weeks later, and I pulled the Swedish National Encyclopedia from the shelf, there was a several pages long article about “Physical Chemistry”, authored by myself some 5 years earlier, featuring molecular reaction dynamics studied by fast laser spectroscopy. It contained an illustration from one of Ahmed’s papers! Further, according to Ahmed and Ingmar, I should have said that he (Zewail) would be warmly welcome provided costs for his travel to and stay in Gothenburg were taken care of by Grenthe or the Academy. I translated my encyclopedia article for Ahmed, which initiated our intense discussion about where Physical Chemistry was heading. I would say we found each other then - I even paid his tram ticket when we at sunset went to my home where my surprised wife, Gunnela, improvised dinner for us. Ahmed stayed long that night and many basic questions that we touched upon then and there, we have returned to at our encounters later at Caltech.

After his Nobel prize we got closer, partly because of our joint interest in molecular spectroscopy but partly also, I think, because of a kind of isolation Nobel laureates often feel and me being a member (at the time Chair) of the Nobel Committee. Both of us felt a pressure to behave and not openly admit any of those embarrassing questions and doubts that incessantly plague scientists who want to reach for true understanding of how things really work. We both felt that the Textbook Word and reality are more often than not two different things – a little like a priest who might have his private doubts. Both of us believed in intuition as the best guidance to new theories and experiments, and also allowed ourselves to be secretly skeptical to many “accepted facts” in science.
I used to visit Ahmed at Caltech for a couple of days each November, and one spring I stayed for several months invited as a visiting scholar in his lab. I am very grateful to him (and his wonderful wife Dema) for their ever very generous and amiable hospitality during these stays which were truly inspiring to me. The schedule of the first day of my visits was always that we sat down to discuss various things that had happened in our respective research lives since last time – mostly dominated by Ahmed’s often much more spectacular experimental progress and discoveries. We always started our day with a cappuccino together in the sun outside the campus cafeteria. There he would ask about things related to the Nobel prize, where he, although he was a Foreign Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, was often ignorant about who were nominated and so on. (Foreign Members are welcome to those meetings in the Class where nominations and investigations of various candidates are presented and discussed, but have not the right to participate and vote at the general assembly finally deciding on the Nobel prizes and are normally not informed about any details of ongoing investigations, who are hot candidates etc). Ahmed cared very much for the status of the Nobel prize and sometimes had his concerns about true or suspected candidates. This “updating” talk I found the most difficult in our relation as Ahmed’s natural (scientific!) curiosity felt no bounds, while my own integrity and responsibility towards the Nobel institutions prevented me from a completely open information transfer. At the same time these discussions were very useful for me as Ahmed was always an updated source of current development, indications of upcoming breakthroughs, paradigm shifts and so on. Our own fields were thoroughly ventilated, but any development important to Chemistry as a whole was also considered.

Moving from the coffee table to Ahmed’s office, or rather his big conference table and whiteboard across the hallway which we filled with sketches and equations, we plunged into science.  Two topics were recurrent: diffraction of singular electrons in a Young’s double slit setting and coherence of molecular vibrations. I was very much a skeptical Dr Watson, when Ahmed presented new results proudly like a cat putting a dead mouse for my feet. He also enjoyed using me as a Devil’s Advocate: for example, I was generally suspicious to visible oscillations, after having revealed some artifacts in laser spectroscopy back in the 1980-ies, one being a ringing effect due to thermal-lens fluctuations instead of being a real claimed molecular orientation effect due to interaction between the photon field and induced molecular dipole moments, so-called Optical Kerr Effect. Very early his elegant demonstration of recurrent wave-packet travels in the potential diagram of sodium iodide was in focus for our discussions. Was his result maybe in conflict with Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle?  The answer we finally agreed on was, however, “no”, because the fact that Ahmed was exciting all the NaI molecules in phase would make the sample behave differently from a quantum mechanically described single molecule (microscopic system), and be more like a coherently vibrating macroscopic system. 

A pedagogical device, constructed of Perspex and bent steel strings by my engineer Mr Tore Eriksson, and which Ahmed used in his Nobel Lecture illuminated on an overhead projector, showed how a steel ball was moving back and forth in the excited-state potential of Na-I. When the potential curve came close to the ground-state potential, the ball could jump over to the ground state, triggered by a hand-controlled mechanical switch, and then either return to the deep valley representing the bound state of the molecule or move in the opposite direction, corresponding to dissociation into Na and I atoms. Ahmed was very fond of the device which had an honorary position on a shelf in his office. 
Ahmed’s other great interest, in single-electron diffraction, of course, was the embryo to his next big discovery: the use of time-resolved electron microscopy to resolve fast processes. We devoted a lot of time to discuss whether the Coulombic repulsion between the electrons would create a longitudinal “anti-bunching” along the train of electrons, or would just spray the electrons randomly in space. 
As Ahmed’s guest at Caltech I had the privilege and pleasure of meeting his friends at the “Round Table” Wednesday lunches at the Athenaeum, 10 of Caltech’s most outstanding scientists, including Rudy Marcus and Jack Roberts, the latter who passed away in October 2016, at 98, was the legendary inventor of physical organic chemistry and the modern use of NMR for studying molecular structure and dynamics.  To a newcomer these lunches were indeed inspiring and also a little scary – I had suddenly to stand up for all science, politics and economy that had been going on in Europe since my last visit; generally I managed to duck for the kill questions although not always. At these Round Table discussions about all and everything, I also realized how Ahmed was the born survivor – a fish in his right element – the same way as he survived when he was first up for interview at Caltech and became afraid he would misspell Feynman when writing his name on the blackboard – he got away with it by – after writing Fe… turning around with a charming smile saying: we all know how to spell Feynman do we not? Whereupon everyone laughed.

To Ahmed Zewail the coming generation of young scientists was very important – and Egypt youth had a special place in his heart – as will Egypt be for ever grateful to Ahmed Zewail for all his influence and academic initiatives there – such as the Zewail City of Science and Technology – his lifelong dream, inaugurated with Ahmed as its Chair in 2011. He also played a seminal role for the early development and establishment of the Molecular Frontiers Foundation, being Chair of its first Scientific Advisory Board and himself being speaker at many of its symposia, explaining results from the research frontiers in his characteristic vivid, simplistic and pedagogical way.  Molecular Frontiers owes Ahmed a lot in that he created the discussion atmosphere that today is a hallmark of the organization: the youth are prized for their questions, not for knowing the answers!

My first experience of this talent of his was at a Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting where I was asked to moderate a round-table discussion, an occasion that gave rise to another humoristic anecdote that Ahmed liked to refer to. The Nobel laureates around the table, in addition to Ahmed were Harry Kroto, Paul Crutzen, Richard Ernst and George Olah (see Figure 1). I received scraps of paper with questions from the floor – mostly young PhD students who had received stipends to partake in the meeting. As most questions were thoughtful and scientifically advanced (read boring), I smuggled myself in a few that fired up the discussion considerably: referring to Alfred Nobel, one asked how dynamite really works? What is the role of the stabilizing agent (a dispersion of dry diatom silica organisms or simply sawdust)?  A lively discussion started among the Nobel laureates with speculations all over the place, one was about acoustic damping, until suddenly a shout from the audience interrupted - Nobel laureate Manfred Eigen rose and claimed we were all wrong, and the true explanation how the tricky nitroglycerine was tamed was due to that the stabilizer reacts with radicals, quenching chain reactions.  

We were interviewed afterwards by the Editor of Chemical & Engineering News, Dr Madeleine Jacobs, who, when she introduced herself, turned to me: “we have actually met before but maybe you don’t recognize me with clothes on”.  This comment which led to great general amusement, not least Ahmed’s, had an explanation in that both of us had started our days with a swim workout in the hotel pool before breakfast.  After a couple of days we greeted each other at a distance, being the only ones in the large pool but I had obviously not recognized her when she reappeared in the conference without swim cap and “with clothes on”.  Another amusing incidence occurred when I was going to check out from the hotel and had no cash (they refused to take any cards). Behind me in the line was Dr Lorie Karnath, restless as she had to catch a flight, and possibly also feeling pity for me: she bailed me out and paid my room and thus probably rescued me from an embarrassing fate. In return I later treated her to a nice meal and great wine at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm. Together with Prof Magdalena Eriksson she later became instrumental during the first stumbling, founding steps of creating Molecular Frontiers Foundation; both of them are still highly active in the core of the MFF organization.

A special memory I have with Ahmed was one summer afternoon when he was on his way from Lund to a spectroscopy conference in Copenhagen, and made a detour via our summerhouse at a little fishing village by the Sound between Sweden and Denmark. He stayed for an early dinner but as he was going to call for a taxi to take him to the hydrofoil ferry in Malmö, I suggested: why don’t we sail you over and you save some money?  Soon we were under sail with my neighbor and very close friend, orthopedic professor Björn Persson, in his boat with course straight west. The wind was not cold, but brisk and we sailed fast. After a little more than two hours we entered the mouth of the harbor of Copenhagen, reduced sail and moved slowly into the very heart of the continental city. Both Ahmed and I remembered the event fondly, this was the first time for him in a sailing yacht – his only experience of small boats being from the Nile when he was a boy. He enjoyed every moment, especially the magic feeling when we were silently approaching the big city in darkness with its many lights ashore. We landed in Christianshavn, a part of Copenhagen which is a little like Venice with narrow channels and many small restaurants. It was close to midnight and we wondered if it would be possible to get anything to eat before Ahmed had to depart for his hotel and we return to Sweden. Close to where we had docked the boat, we found a small pub in the basement which was closing with the last patrons just leaving. When Ahmed asked the owner whether we could have something very simple to eat, he was most reluctant, but Ahmed’s charm quickly broke down any resistance, and soon we found ourselves sitting together with him and the kitchen staff having a veritable feast meal – one of the waiters (a Portuguese) brought his guitar and began to entertain us all with emotional Fado songs. 

The last time I saw Ahmed was when Gunnela and I visited Pasadena in November 2015. I gave a seminar in his group on our recent discovery of a new elongated conformation of double-stranded DNA (the “sigma form”) and its potential biological role and why any form of organic life can only exist in a water-rich environment. He had many good points and also suggested a clever mechanistic complement to my explanation of the inhomogeneous conformational reorganization that we call “disproportionation”. Earlier the same day he had shown me some amazing results from time-resolved single-electron microscopy, visualizing in real time the coherent travel of phonons along a set of hydrocarbon chains aligned at a surface. At the end of the chain the wave was reflected and returned back. As he commented when I interrupted him to guess that result: “you saw it in a femtosecond, didn’t you?”

The last photo I have of Ahmed (and myself) is from my 70th birthday symposium in Gothenburg in early May 2015. As usual he gave a captivating talk (watch the video here), appreciated as much by the professional scientific audience (many Nobel Laureates) as by the more than 200 high-school students.  

Ahmed, I am most grateful to you for all inspiration you gave me over the years and for your deep-felt friendship, the memory of which I will carry in my heart as long as I live.  

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