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  • 04/26/18

    Professor Gagliardi honored with Humboldt Research Award

Professor Laura Gagliardi has been honored with a prestigious Humboldt Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, which will enable her to conduct research with scientists in Germany in 2019.

The award is named after the late Prussian naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt. Every year, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation enables researchers from all over the world to spend time conducting research in Germany. 

Gagliardi is one of the most highly accomplished theoretical and computational chemists in the world, internationally known for her contributions to the development of electronic structure methods and their use for understanding complex chemical system. Her work involves the prediction and modeling of chemical phenomena by means of advanced chemical computation. 

Professor Laura Gagliardi in her lab

She leads the highly collaborative and multi-disciplinary Inorganometallic Catalyst Design Center, which is an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the Department of Energy and based at the University of Minnesota. This center focuses on the computationally guided discovery of a new class of energy-science-relevant catalytic materials and the underlying structure–function relationships that will guide further catalyst discovery. 

Gagliardi develops new electronic-structure methods that have led to paradigm-shifting improvements in the understanding of complex inorganic systems and their properties, which are important for applications ranging from energy sustainability to nuclear waste management. Her work on chemical bonds has changed the way chemists think about how metal atoms interact by showing that one could go beyond a quadruple bond. This new way of thinking about chemical bonds has had a deep effect on physical chemistry, inorganic chemistry, and materials science.

Another major discovery from Gagliardi’s research group includes the characterization of the range of possible structures and properties associated with a relatively new class of nanostructured materials called metal organic frameworks (MOFs). Recently, she developed a methodology to simulate CO2 capture within MOFs, possibly leading to the capture of greenhouse gas from the atmosphere and waste streams.

Professor Gagliardi is also an expert in electronic spectroscopy, employing multi-reference quantum chemical methods to explain phenomena involving excited states of system containing transition metals and also organic molecules. In the last five years, she has worked with experimentalists to understand the nature of metal-metal multiply bonded systems, their excited state properties, and their contribution to photo-catalysis phenomena.

She has improved the methodology for wave function modeling of transition metal systems that are not addressable with conventional routes. Currently, her group studies systems with up to 200 atoms, several of which are heavy, by using these approaches. She is now working on new density functional methods that will extend the range of systems amenable to quantitative prediction even further in collaboration with Professor Donald Truhlar.

As a Humboldt recipient, one the researchers Gagliardi will be working with over the next year is Professor Joachim Sauer from the Humboldt University of Berlin.

"What sets Laura Gagliardi apart is her unusually broad perspective arising from a background spanning physical, inorganic, and organic chemistry as well as her ability to develop and use computational chemistry tools to address challenging problems," said Professor Sauer. "As a result, her research program is uniquely multidisciplinary. Gagliardi’s spectacular success derives from her unique talent of combining the explanation of otherwise puzzling chemical phenomena with computational predictions of new materials and properties."

Professor Gagliardi

Gagliardi is a Distinguished McKnight University Professor, Fellow of the American Physical Society, Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, and recipient of the Bourke Award from the Royal Society of Chemistry. She is associate editor of the Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation, and serves on the editorial advisory board of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, She also serves on the advisory board for SUNCAT Center for Interface Science and Catalysis at Stanford University in California.

Gagliardi earned her doctorate from the University of Bologna, Italy, and was a post-doctorate at the University of Cambridge. She joined the University of Minnesota Department of Chemistry faculty in 2009, after working in Palermo and Geneva.

Humboldt Foundation

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation maintains a network of more than 28,000 Humboldtians from all over world and all disciplines. Those Humboldtians include Department of Chemistry professors John Ellis, Connie Lu, and William Tolman, Professor Lu received one of the Humboldt post-doctoral fellowships. The list also includes 54 Nobel Prize winners. Among those are Bernhard Feringer (Groningen) and Fraser Stoddard (Northwestern) who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2015, and computational chemist John Pople who won the Nobel Prize in 1998.