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Sept. 29: Family of Nobel Laureate John A. Pople To Present Nobel Medal To Carnegie Mellon at Inaugural John A. Pople Lectures


Jocelyn Duffy          

Family of Nobel Laureate John A. Pople To Present Nobel Medal
To Carnegie Mellon at Inaugural John A. Pople Lectures

poplePITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University will become one of only a few universities in the United States to display a gold Nobel Prize Medal, through a generous bequest from the late John A. Pople. Pople's children will present their father's medal, which he received for winning the 1998 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, to the university at the inaugural John A. Pople Lectures in Theoretical and Computational Chemistry at 4:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 5, in the Mellon Institute Auditorium, 4400 Fifth Ave., Oakland. The lectures are free and open to the public.
"John Pople was one of our most distinguished faculty members, warmly remembered for his profound dedication to his science and his students. We are very grateful to receive his Nobel Prize Medal, and hope that each person who views this artifact will be inspired to follow Professor Pople's example," said Carnegie Mellon President Jared L. Cohon.
Pople, the former J.C. Warner Professor of the Natural Sciences at Carnegie Mellon, was affiliated with the university and the Mellon Institute for more than 30 years. His work was integral to launching the field of computational quantum chemistry. The computational methods he and his students developed made possible the first principles study of molecules, their properties and interactions in chemical reactions. Chemists worldwide are still using computer programs based on Pople's work.
"The Nobel Medal is a symbol of excellence, ingenuity and innovation — three words that I would associate with John Pople and his work," said Hyung J. Kim, professor and head of the Department of Chemistry. "Pople's work transformed how chemists model molecules, allowing us to understand increasingly complex systems."
Carnegie Mellon's Department of Chemistry has established the biennial lectures, which will bring leaders in the field of computational chemistry to campus to honor Pople's contributions to science.  Giving the inaugural lectures will be two men with close ties to Pople and Carnegie Mellon: his former student Mark Gordon, and Walter Kohn, a former Carnegie Mellon physics professor who shared the 1998 Nobel Prize with Pople.  
Gordon, the Frances M. Craig Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at Iowa State University and director of the Ames Laboratory Applied Mathematical Science program, received his Ph.D. from the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1967 under Pople's guidance. This summer, Gordon was elected to the inaugural class of American Chemical Society Fellows for his contributions to science, the profession and society. Gordon's research interests are very broadly based in electronic structure theory and related fields, with applications including surface science and new material design.  
Kohn, emeritus and research professor of physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, was a faculty member at the Carnegie Institute from 1950 to 1960. While he and Pople never collaborated, they both were singled out by the Nobel committee as being the most prominent figures in the creation of quantum computational chemistry, a field of study that revolutionized the whole of chemistry by allowing scientists to identify the inner structure of matter. Kohn developed the density-functional theory that simplified the mathematics needed to describe the bonding of atoms, making it possible to study large molecules.  In recent years, Kohn has turned his interests towards solar power producing a documentary titled "The Power of the Sun."
The Nobel Medal will be displayed in Carnegie Mellon's Hunt Library beginning in the spring of 2010.


Pictured above is John A. Pople.