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Department of Chemistry to host Nobel laureate Robert Grubbs for guest lecture on April 28

April 19, 2017

Robert GrubbsVictor and Elizabeth Atkins Professor of ChemistryChemistry and Chemical EngineeringCredit: Lance Hayashida/Caltech

Bob Grubbs
Robert Grubbs, the Victor and Elizabeth Atkins Professor of Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology. Photo courtesy: Lance Hayashida/Caltech.

Nobel Laureate Robert Grubbs will visit campus April 28 as part of a guest lecture series sponsored by the Department of Chemistry, part of the Virginia Tech College of Science.

The Victor and Elizabeth Atkins Professor of Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Grubbs won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2005 for developing the metathesis method in organic synthesis. His talk at Virginia Tech will focus on his research into olefin metathesis, a chemical reaction that involves olefins (also known as alkenes) –components of molecules that contain carbon-carbon double bonds.

Olefin metathesis is used in the synthesis of synthetic drugs, which can be made more efficiently, inexpensively, and with less waste than with traditional methods. The same process is also employed in a wide variety of industries, including plastics used in the production of vehicles such as trucks, windmill blades, and the production of synthetic insect pheromones that can be used in the control of insects, far more safely than that of insecticides that have negative environmental side effects.

The talk will take place at 2:30 pm., Friday, April 28 at 281 Davidson Hall. Seating is limited for the free event.

It is the final talk in the spring 2017 Highlands in Chemistry seminar series for spring 2017. The Highlands series is a weekly event hosted by the Department of Chemistry. Now in its 50th year, the series was started by Alan Clifford, who was appointed chemistry department head in 1966.

Grubbs’ talk is supported by the Friends of Larry Taylor Chemistry Excellence Fund, an endowed fund that was established by the Department of Chemistry Advisory Council in June 2004 and has been supported by numerous alumni and friends.  The fund honors Larry Taylor who headed the department from 1997 to 2004. Taylor established the advisory council, originally called the Department of Chemistry Alumni Advisory Board, in 1998.

Grubbs earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Florida in 1963 and 1965, respectively, and a doctorate in chemistry at Columbia University in 1968. He spent a year at Stanford University as a postdoctoral fellow, before joining the faculty at Michigan State University in 1969. Caltech hired Grubbs in 1978 with full tenure as a professor. Among his numerous other awards and honors, Grubbs was inducted into the National Academy of Science in 1989, and was awarded the Benjamin Franklin Medal in 2000 by the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.