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Two chemistry faculty members elected to International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science

Professor William LesterProfessor William Lester

Professor Martin Head-Gordon

Berkeley chemistry professors William A. Lester, Jr. and Martin Head-Gordon have been elected to the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science at its 43rd annual meeting, held in May, 2006, in Kyoto, Japan. With their election, Lester and Head-Gordon join fellow faculty member William H. Miller as members of the academy.

The academy was created in 1967 with the support of Louis de Broglie (1892 – 1987), who won the Nobel Prize for Physics "for his discovery of the wave nature of electrons" in 1929. The members are chosen among scientists from all countries who have distinguished themselves by the quality of their work in applying quantum mechanics to the study of molecules and macromolecules.

douskeyRomelia Salomon-Ferrer

douskeyProfessor William Lester and student Romelia Salomon-Ferrer with their award for the their best-of-session poster in Kyoto, Japan

At the meeting, a poster by members of the Lester group won a best-of-session award over 184 other entrants. Entitled "So, where is the electron pair? A quantum Monte Carlo detective approach," the poster netted a 500 Euro award for Lester, former student Alán Aspuro-Guzik, current student Romelia Salomon-Ferrer, and visiting professor Carlos Amador Bedolla of Universidad Nacional Autonoma De Mexico.

"This is a double honor for both my students and me," says Lester, "I am very pleased for all of us."

Research in the Lester group focuses on theoretical studies of the electronic structure of molecules. The group is extending the range of problems that can be addressed with quantum Monte Carlo techniques.

Monte Carlo methods are based on the use of random numbers and probability statistics to investigate problems. Solving equations which describe the interactions between two atoms is fairly simple; solving the same equations for hundreds or thousands of atoms is impossible. With Monte Carlo methods, a large system can be sampled in a number of random configurations, and that data can be used to describe the system as a whole.

Head-Gordon's group is developing electronic structure theories to allow the study of problems that are beyond the reach of current methods. The goal is to identify the structure and reactivity of molecules based on quantum mechanical first principles. Since this information is crucial to understanding and controlling the chemistry of molecules, applications of electronic structure theory play an important and growing role in many areas of chemistry.

Aspuro-Guzik earned his chemistry Ph.D. with Lester and is currently a postdoctoral researcher with Head-Gordon. He has accepted a position as Assistant Professor, Chemistry and Chemical Biology, at Harvard University.

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