Fraser Stoddart's path to the Nobel Prize

Sir Fraser Stoddart was in Stockholm last year to receive - together with others including the Groningen Professor Ben Feringa - the Nobel Prize for Chemistry 2016. You can find out how his work on molecular machines took him to the Swedish capital by attending his lecture for Studium Generale on Tuesday afternoon (November 14) in the Blauwe Zaal.

Fraser Stoddart is currently in the Netherlands for activities relating to the Netherlands Award for Supramolecular Chemistry 2017, which has been awarded to him by the Gravitation Program entitled Functional Molecular Systems. Participating in this research center alongside Nobel Prize winner Ben Feringa are various Eindhoven professors, including the Distinguished University Professor Bert Meijer, with whom Stoddart formerly worked in Birmingham, England.

The now 75-year-old Scottish chemist has been a professor at Northwestern University in Evanston, near Chicago, since 2008. His long career began in Edinburgh and has taken him to many places, including Sheffield, Birmingham and Los Angeles. In 1991 he succeeded in making a new molecule, rotaxane, which consists of a molecular ring capable of turning on a molecular axis. Based on this step, he was able to build, among other things, a molecular lift, a molecular muscle, and a computer chip of sorts. It was these achievements that earned him the Nobel Prize last year.

As well as for his work in the lab, Stoddart has gained a reputation for his presentation style: he has introduced various novelties in his articles and lectures, including color codes for (parts of) molecules that have various characteristics, which has inspired many imitations. In addition, since being awarded the Nobel Prize, he has been very active on Twitter, in order he says to make contact with the young people who are now entering science.

On Monday afternoon in the TU/e building Helix, during a lecture that was more academic than the one for Studium Generale, the Nobel laureate called on his audience to follow his example and help disseminate the gospel of chemistry via Twitter. He also spend quite some time on discussing the recent scientific developments in his lab. Owing to technical problems, incidentally, the lecture was relocated to the Blauwe Zaal, a blessing in disguise for the influx of chemists unable to find seats in the smaller lecture theater in Helix.