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  • Professor Donald Truhlar

    Professor Truhlar receives 2019 ACS Award in Theoretical Chemistry

Regents Professor Donald Truhlar has received the 2019 American Chemical Society Award in Theoretical Chemistry. He is being honored for his creative contributions to theoretical chemistry, and developing new density functionals for practical calculations of thermochemistry, thermochemical kinetics, and noncovalent interactions.

Multifaceted research

Truhlar is renowned as one of the top theoretical chemists in the world. His multifaceted research in theoretical and computational chemistry focuses on kinetics, dynamics, solvation, electronic structure,  thermochemistry, and catalysis. Special emphases encompasses:

  • study of photoactivated processes, for which his work includes excitation energies, potential energy surfaces and their couplings, and multi-state dynamics;
  • incorporation of quantum effects in dynamics, including tunneling, vibrational quantization and anharmonicity, coherence and decoherence, and electronic state switching;
  • variational transition state theory applied to gas-phase and condensed-phase reactions, with special emphasis on atmospheric chemistry, combustion, enzyme kinetics, nanodusty plasmas, and surface science;
  • electronic structure theory such as wave function theory, density functional theory, and combined quantum mechanical–molecular mechanical methods;
  • development of broadly accurate density functionals and density functional methods for electronic structure calculations by Kohn-Sham theory and multiconfiguration pair-density functional theory;
  • transition metal chemistry, with a special emphasis on catalysis; computational thermochemistry, including free energies of complex species in the gas phase and solution, solvation free energies, and electrochemistry; and
  • new methods for path integral calculations in quantum mechanical statistical mechanics; and lithium-ion battery development: structure, electromotive force, capacity, and transport.

Advancing and transforming chemistry & chemical physics

He has received many prestigious awards and honors his seminal contributions that have advanced and transformed chemistry and chemical physics. This includes publishing 1,191 papers and 86 book chapters. He also has edited 14 books. According to Google Scholar Citations, Truhlar’s publications have been cited 144,242 times with an h index of 162. He consistently is lauded annually for the number of citations his publications receive.

Truhlar has gleaned numerous accolades to his research and contributions to the profession such as the 2016 Earle K. Plyler Prize for Molecular Spectroscopy and Dynamics, American Chemical Society (ACS) Award for Computers in Chemical and Pharmaceutical Research, ACS Peter Debye Award for Physical Chemistry, Schrödinger Medal of The World Association of Theoretical and Computational Chemists, Dudley R. Herschbach Award for Excellence in Research in Collision Dynamics, Royal Society of Chemistry Chemical Dynamics Award, National Academy of Sciences Award for Scientific Reviewing, Distinguished Alumnus Award of St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, and the Minnesota Award of the Minnesota Section of the ACS. In the spring of 2015, the ACS honored Truhlar with a symposium for his contributions to and advancement of theory and computation in the understanding of the structure, energetics, and dynamics of molecules in gas phase, macromolecular, and condensed-phase systems.

Distinguished professor and mentor

Truhlar is one of the Department of Chemistry's most distinguished professors, honored for his mentorship, teaching, research, and service. In 2006, he was named a Regents Professor, the University of Minnesota's highest faculty honor. In 1998, he received the George W. Taylor Award for Distinguished Service, recognized for his outstanding service to the university and voluntary public service to governmental or other public groups.

His teaching and advising record also is unparalleled. He has taught numerous graduate and undergraduate courses, and has mentored more than 161 graduate students and postdoctoral associates and 85 undergraduate research students. He was honored for his roles as a mentor and adviser with the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly Outstanding Adviser Award in 2013. He received the Council of Graduate Students Outstanding Faculty Award in 2015, and its Outstanding Advising and Mentoring Award in 2016, honored for going above and beyond in his work with graduate students.

Contributions to science community

Truhlar's contributions to the scientific community include service as an associate editor for the Journal of the American Chemical Society and principal editor of Computer Physics Communications. He is also past editor of Theoretical Chemistry Accounts and currently serves as chief advisory editor of that journal as well as on several other editorial boards. He was honored by the American Physical Society as an Outstanding Referee of the Physical Review and Physical Review Letters, recognized for his help in assessing manuscripts for publication, and for providing invaluable reports and advice to authors, researchers, students, and readers. In addition, he has served on a number of ACS and American Physical Society councils and committees, and planned symposia, conferences, and workshops.

He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, and the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Sciences. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Physical Society, the American Chemical Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry, World Association of Theoretical and Computational Chemists, and the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute as well as an honorary fellow of the Chinese Chemical Society.

About Professor Truhlar

Truhlar earned a Bachelor of Arts in chemistry from Saint Mary's College (now St. Mary’s University of Minnesota) in 1965, and a doctorate from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in 1970. He joined the Department of Chemistry faculty in 1969. He received a Doctor honoris causa from Technical University of Lodz, Poland.

Award presentation

He will receive the award at the April 2019 ACS National Meeting in Orlando. Professor Truhlar now becomes the first person to win all three ACS awards in this area. He is a prior recipient of the ACS Award for Computers in Chemical and Pharmaceutical Research and the ACS Peter Debye Award in Physical Chemistry. The award was announced in Chemical & Engineering News, Monday, Sept. 17, 2018.