2019 Dreyfus Prize Topic: Chemistry in Support of Human Health

The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation has selected Chemistry in Support of Human Health as the topic of the 2019 Dreyfus Prize in the Chemical Sciences.

The Dreyfus Prize, awarded biennially, recognizes an individual for exceptional and original research in a selected area of chemistry that has advanced the field in a major way. The prize consists of a monetary award of $250,000, a medal, and a certificate.

“Each Dreyfus Prize highlights major accomplishment in a different area of the chemical sciences. We consider, in addition, the promise of benefit to society,” said Matthew Tirrell, chair of the Dreyfus Foundation Scientific Affairs Committee. “In this spirit, there is no greater benefit that chemistry provides to society than the many profound contributions to the science and technology of human health. The field of the chemical sciences is rich with individuals whose work drives our understanding and betterment of human health.”

The deadline for nominations is February 28, 2019. Further details on the Prize and the nomination procedure are available on the Dreyfus website.

2018 Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Awards

The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation has selected eight Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholars for 2018. The award provides an unrestricted research grant of $60,000 to young faculty at primarily undergraduate institutions who are accomplished researchers and committed educators.

Nathan Bowling, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Controlling Conformations of Unsaturated Molecules

Justin K. Hines, Lafayette College
Impact of Amino Acid Content on Amyloid and Molecular Chaperone Interactions in Live Cells

R. Jeremy Johnson, Butler University
Mycobacterial Serine Hydrolases and their Roles in Dormant Tuberculosis Infection

Jefferson Knight, University of Colorado Denver
Chemistry of Interfacial Protein-Membrane Interactions Central to Insulin Secretion

Greg Springsteen, Furman University
Protometabolic Pathways Toward the Origin of Life

Korin E. Wheeler, Santa Clara University
Toward Prediction of Nanoparticle Biomolecular Interactions and Reactivity

Nathan T. Wright, James Madison University
Towards Stabilizing Disease-causing Desmoplakin Mutations

Kristin L. Wustholz, The College of William & Mary
Development of Stimulus-Responsive SERS Probes for Biosensing

Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Symposium, October 26

The fifth biennial Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar symposium, Research Frontiers in the Chemical Sciences, will be held at the New York Academy of Sciences on Friday, October 26, 2018. Approximately 40 of the most recent Camille and Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholars will present posters and produce brief videos about their research. In addition, Zhenan Bao, Sean Decatur, John Hartwig, and Timothy Swager will give talks on their current work. James Anderson will speak about recent innovations in teaching the chemical sciences. Below is the program of talks, in sequence.

John F. Hartwig, Henry Rapoport Professor of Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley
Accelerating Chemical Synthesis with Catalysis

Zhenan Bao, K.K. Lee Professor of Chemical Engineering, Stanford University
Skin-Inspired Electronic Materials

Sean M. Decatur, President, Kenyon College
Aggregating Proteins and Coupled Vibrations: A Case for the Integration of Biophysical Chemistry, Problem Solving, and the Liberal Arts

James G. Anderson, Philip S. Weld Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry, Harvard University
Frontiers and Foundations From a Global and Molecular Perspective: A New Approach to Introductory University Chemistry

Timothy M. Swager, John D. MacArthur Professor of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Molecular Designs for Specificity in Chemical Sensors

2018 Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Awards

The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation has selected 13 Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholars for 2018. These young faculty have each created an outstanding independent body of scholarship and are deeply committed to education. The frontier accomplishments of these award recipients span the broad range of contemporary research in the chemical sciences. Each Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar receives an unrestricted research grant of $75,000.

Alexander B. Barnes
, Washington University in St. Louis
Magnetic Resonance Technology for In-cell NMR Structural Determination of HIV Latency Reversal Agents

Amie K. Boal
, The Pennsylvania State University
Watching Metalloenzymes at Work

Abhishek Chatterjee
, Boston College
A Genetically Encoded Toolset to Unravel the Roles of Post-translational Modifications in Human Biology

Irene A. Chen, University of California, Santa Barbara
Probing Known Unknowns in Systems Biology

Francesco A. Evangelista, Emory University
Quantum Renormalization Group Methods for Excited States of Strongly Correlated Electrons

Danna Freedman
, Northwestern University
Applying Inorganic Chemistry to Challenges in Physics

Catherine L. Grimes
, University of Delaware
Breaking Down and Building Up Bacterial Cell Walls to Understand Inflammation

John B. Matson
, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Functional Bioactive Materials for Gasotransmitter Delivery and Tissue Engineering

Kang-Kuen Ni
, Harvard University
Ultracold Molecules for Chemistry and Physics

Corinna S. Schindler
, University of Michigan
New Methods for Sustainable Organic Synthesis

Mohammad R. Seyedsayamdost
, Princeton University
Total Chemo-Enzymatic Synthesis of Vancomycin and its Analogs

Mikhail G. Shapiro
, California Institute of Technology
Molecular Engineering for Noninvasive Imaging and Control of Cellular Function

Matthew D. Shoulders
, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Molecular Mechanisms of Protein Folding and Evolution in Living Cells

Dreyfus Recognized at Spring 2018 ACS National Meeting

At the Spring 2018 national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the Dreyfus Foundation was recognized for 25 years of support of the ACS Award for Encouraging Women into Careers in the Chemical Sciences & the ACS Award for Encouraging Disadvantaged Students into Careers in the Chemical Sciences. Pictured are Dreyfus Board members Richard Zare & Scott Walter with Dorothy J. Phillips, ACS Director-at-Large.

Nocera & Rogers Elected Dreyfus Advisors


Daniel Nocera and John Rogers have been elected to serve as Advisors to the Dreyfus Foundation, effective April 2018. Nocera is the Patterson Rockwood Professor of Energy at Harvard University. His group has pioneered studies in renewable energy conversion and invented the artificial leaf and bionic leaf. Rogers is the Louis Simpson and Kimberly Querrey Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, and Neurological Surgery at Northwestern University. His research seeks to understand and exploit interesting characteristics of “soft” and unusual classes of materials. These include polymers, liquid crystals, biological tissues, and semiconductor micro/nanomaterials. His focus is on bio-integrated systems and bio-inspired designs.

Fox & Brauman Become Emeritus Directors

Two Dreyfus Board members, Marye Anne Fox and John Brauman, became emeritus directors in 2017. Brauman first joined the Foundation in 1988 and was elected to the Board in 2006. Fox started her association with Dreyfus in 1991 and became a Director in 2002. Among their many honors, each received the National Medal of Science. The brief videos produced in conjunction with these awards provide further details about the careers of these esteemed scientists. See the videos on Fox and Brauman.


Dreyfus Symposium on Theoretical & Computational Chemistry, March 20, 2018

The Dreyfus Foundation is proud to sponsor a symposium on Theoretical and Computational Chemistry, the topic of the 2017 Dreyfus Prize, at the spring national meeting of the American Chemical Society in New Orleans on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. The distinguished speakers include Michele Parrinello, the winner of the 2017 Dreyfus Prize. The symposium, which will be held in Room 206 of the Convention Center, is sponsored by the American Chemical Society Multidisciplinary Program Planning Group and co-sponsored by the Physical Chemistry and Computers in Chemistry divisions.

9:00 am: Introduction, Jerald Schnoor, University of Iowa

Session 1. Chair: Daniel Nocera, Harvard University

9:15 am: Emily Carter, Princeton University, Insights from Ab Initio Potential Energy Surfaces and Molecular Dynamics for Sustainable Energy Technologies

9:50 am: Glenn Fredrickson, University of California, Santa Barbara, Field-Theoretic Simulations: From Advanced Materials to Quantum Liquids

Session 2. Chair: Richard Zare, Stanford University

10:40 am: Kendall Houk, University of California, Los Angeles, Dynamics and Mechanisms of Pericyclic Reactions

11:15 am: Mark Ratner, Northwestern University, Metals, Molecules, Mixing, and Mastery

Session 3. Chair: Louis Brus, Columbia University

2:00 pm: Wolfgang Domcke, Technical University of Munich, How to Burn Water with Sunlight? Insights from Computational Chemistry

2:35 pm: Sharon Hammes-Schiffer, Yale University, Proton-coupled Electron Transfer in Catalysis and Energy Conversion

Session 4. Chair: Matthew Tirrell, The University of Chicago

3:25 pm: Roberto Car, Princeton University, Variational Sampling and Renormalization Theory

4:00 pm: Michele Parrinello, Università della Svizzera italiana & ETH Zurich, Fluctuations, Entropy, and Rare Events

Michele Parrinello, 2017 Dreyfus Prize Winner

Meet Michele Parrinello, Professor of Computational Sciences at the Università della Svizzera italiana and ETH Zurich, and winner of the 2017 Dreyfus Prize in the Chemical Sciences. The 72-year old, soft-spoken Sicilian-born professor is unsurpassed in his contributions to the field of computational chemistry, continuously improving methodologies for simulating the behavior of atoms and molecules. His research has paved the way for a better understanding of biological and chemical reactions, critical to the development of new materials, renewable energy sources and drug therapies, and to a better understanding of the natural world.

The Car-Parrinello method, published in 1985, vaulted the field of computational chemistry by innovatively combining molecular dynamics (the simulation of how atoms and molecules move) with a quantum theoretical approach to electron structure. Together with fellow researcher Roberto Car, Parrinello developed first principles equations for modeling chemical reactions and structural phase transitions that occur when interatomic bonds break down and new bonds form. Car-Parrinello Molecular Dynamics (CPMD) played a significant role in establishing computational chemistry as the third pillar of modern chemistry, alongside theory and experimentation, giving scientists a “virtual microscope” into phenomena that cannot be explored empirically. Today, scientists and engineers from fields as diverse as chemistry, biology, entomology, physics, and materials science use codes derived from CPMD’s approach.

Currently, Parrinello is further advancing his computational methodologies with metadynamics and variational sampling research. His work is progressing the ability to simulate—in practical timeframes—more complex phenomena and rare events, such as protein folding and protein-ligand binding, which has significant applications in drug design. For more on Parrinello, see this video.

What interested you in pursuing a career in science?
I was actually drawn to science through my interest in mathematics. In my high school in Messina, Italy, we didn’t do much in mathematics, but I liked it. It came easy to me. Before university, my studies were more oriented to the Classics—eight years of Latin and five years of ancient Greek.

Was anyone in your family a scientist?
No, my father was a pediatrician and my mother was a high school literature and history teacher. Both came from very modest backgrounds. My mother came from a very small village in Sicily. She was the first of her family to go to university, which was truly remarkable.

Why did you pursue theoretical and computational science?
I was educated as a physicist in Bologna, Italy, but little by little I became interested in chemical problems—the formation and breaking of chemical bonds in condensed matter and phase transitions.

What have been your primary goals with your research?
I am interested in finding new ways of solving problems, without prejudice or fear of moving in a new direction. To paraphrase the Spanish poet Antonio Machado, where there’s no path, you make your own path. I’m looking to understand the complexity of a system and to explain it on an anthropomorphic level we can understand. I want to find ways to use our simulations, our ‘virtual microscopes,’ that not only allow us to ‘zoom in’ on the molecular level but to also ‘zoom out’ to the interrelationships of molecules within larger chemical and biochemical systems.

You’ve dedicated the Dreyfus Prize to Aneesur Rahman, the father of molecular dynamics. Why?
After studying condensed matter theory as a physicist in Trieste, Italy, I was invited to spend three months in 1981 at the Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago. Meeting Aneesur there was one of the greatest blessings of my life. He patiently taught me everything he knew about molecular dynamics while we were working side-by-side in the computation lab, with our punch cards—not only about simulations but how to convert the results into new physical insights. This is where we developed the Parrinello-Rahman method. By changing the classical equations of the motion of atoms and molecules, we were able to simulate a crystal structural phase transformation and see, on a molecular level, what is happening when a solid changes to a liquid. It was a magic moment. Aneesur looked at me and said, “You are a lucky man,” since we had observed for the first time on the computer a crystal structure transformation, using what is now called the Parrinello-Rahman method.

The Car-Parrinello method is the work you’re most known for—cited more than 10,000 times. Why was this so groundbreaking?
Car-Parrinello brought two very separate disciplines together: my work in molecular dynamics and statistical mechanics with Roberto Car’s work in Density Functional Theory (the study of the electronic structure of atoms and molecules in condensed matter). Coming together forced us out of our comfort zone. At that time, in theoretical computations, the atoms in electronic structure calculations were static; they didn’t move the way they do in the real world. We knew there was more to life than that, so we set out to find the right combination of codes that would allow the atoms to move in response to first principle forces, thereby resulting in more accurate, reliable and predictive calculations. Overnight, the invitations to give talks started flooding in.

You were only 39 years old when you and Roberto Car developed Car-Parrinello?
Yes, we were working together when I went back to Trieste, in the winter of ’84-’85. We had the fire of youth back then. We didn’t think about the difficulties. We worked day and night for about four months.

How has the Car-Parrinello method had a lasting effect on the field of computational chemistry?
Almost all, if not all, of the codes used for simulating condensed matter are heavily based on ideas from Car-Parrinello. CPMD is very powerful, but it has its limitations. One of them is the impractical short timescales required to accurately simulate systems with large numbers of atoms and changing configurations. The area I’m working in now, metadynamics, grew out of my realization of CPMD’s limitations. Metadynamics uses enhanced sampling methods to calculate the rate of conformational changes to explore phenomena such as complex chemical reactions, phase transitions, and protein folding.

What areas are you currently studying with metadynamics?
My group in Lugano is working on four areas: method development, in which we are advancing sampling and coarse-graining techniques; materials science; chemistry in solutions; and protein interactions. Using metadynamics, we are looking at how you make new materials by controlling the shape of the crystal being formed. In chemistry in solutions, we are studying water in particular. We are looking at protein reactions, which is in some ways the Holy Grail. Some proteins are like chemical machines that are used by viruses. If we can stop the functioning of these proteins, we can cure the disease.

Why should the public be interested in computational chemistry?
Solutions to our societal problems, such as those facing our health, safety, energy and the environment, will depend on science. Our quality of life depends on advances being made in the chemical fields, from designing new drugs and new materials to finding new energy sources. In each of these areas and more, progress would be slowed down or even hampered without the guidance and insight that is provided by both theory and computer simulation.

Can you give specific examples of how your research could have an impact on environmental safety?
Reliably simulating chemical reactions in molecules can help engineers develop new biodegradable or solvent-free materials that are less harmful to the environment and new ways of producing energy. Understanding what happens in the formation and breaking down of bonds has applications, for example, in carbon sequestration and in our ability to clean up chemical spills.

What is the significance to you of the Dreyfus Prize?
It gives me reassurance that what I have done has not gone unnoticed and that people out there value my efforts. When I was starting out, I never would have guessed I’d get such acclaim with my ideas.

2017 Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Awards

The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation has selected seven Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholars for 2017. The award provides an unrestricted research grant of $60,000 to young faculty at primarily undergraduate institutions who are accomplished researchers and committed educators.

Lauren Benz, University of San Diego
The Surface Chemistry of Complex Materials

Juliane Fry, Reed College
NOx and Particulate Matter: Determining the Chemical Mechanisms Behind Regional Air Pollution

Amelia Fuller, Santa Clara University
New Functions of Biomimetic Oligoamides as Sensors for Water Contaminants

John Gilbertson, Western Washington University
Bioinspired Movement of Protons and Electrons for Small Molecule Activation

Benjamin Swarts, Central Michigan University
Illuminating the Mycobacterial Cell Wall through Undergraduate Chemical Biology Research

Helen White, Haverford College
Physicochemical and Biochemical Insights into the Cycling of Organic Contaminants in Marine Environments

Douglas Young, The College of William & Mary
Application of Unnatural Amino Acids to Prepare Multivalent Bioconjugates