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Nobel Prize Winner Jean-Marie Lehn Speaks on Perspectives in Chemistry

May 15, 2017

ChE Chair & Professor Thomas Webster, Dean Nadine Aubry, Prof. Jean-Marie Lehn, Professor Hicham Fenniri, Professor Mindy Levine (University of Rhode Island).

Nobel Prize winner Jean-Marie Lehn spoke on May 12, 2017, on "Perspectives in Chemistry: From Supramolecular Towards Adaptive Chemistry - Pure and Applied". Following the seminar, a reception was held in Egan Research Building (co-sponsored by NESACS and the Dept. of Chemical Engineering).

The evolution of the universe has generated more and more complex forms of matter through self-organization, from particles up to living and thinking matter. Animate as well as inanimate matter, living organisms as well as materials, are formed of molecules and of the organized entities resulting from the interaction of molecules with each other. Chemistry provides the bridge between the molecules of inanimate matter and the highly complex molecular architectures and systems which make up living and thinking organisms. Synthetic chemistry has developed a very powerful set of methods for constructing ever more complex molecules. Supramolecular chemistry seeks to control the formation of molecular assemblies by means of the interactions between the partners. The designed generation of organized architectures requires the handling of information at the molecular level in a sort of molecular programming, thus also linking chemistry with information science. The field of chemistry is the universe of all possible structures and transformations of molecular matter, of which those actually realized in nature represent just one world among all the worlds that await to be created! Conceptual considerations on chemistry and science in general will be presented.

Jean-Marie LEHN was born in Rosheim, France in 1939. In 1970 he became Professor of Chemistry at the Université Louis Pasteur in Strasbourg and from 1979 to 2010 he was Professor at the Collège de France in Paris. He is presently Professor at the University of Strasbourg Institute for Advanced Study (USIAS). He shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1987 for his studies on the chemical basis of “molecular recognition” (i.e. the way in which a receptor molecule recognizes and selectively binds a substrate), which also plays a fundamental role in biological processes.

Over the years his work led him to the definition of a new field of chemistry, which he has proposed calling “supramolecular chemistry” as it deals with the complex entities formed by the association of two or more chemical species held together by noncovalent intermolecular forces, whereas molecular chemistry concerns the entities constructed from atoms linked by covalent bonds. Subsequently, the area developed into the chemistry of “self-organization” processes and more recently towards “adaptive chemistry”, dynamic networks and complex systems. Author of more than 950 scientific publications, Lehn is a member of many academies and institutions. He has received numerous international honours and awards.

"This event was attended by researchers from most academic and industrial institutions in the greater Boston area, whose feedback has been nothing but gratitude and amazement at the opportunity to hear from one of the most influential scientific minds of our time," remarks Prof. Hicham Fenniri.