Nobel Laureate Delivers First Apeloig Lectureship

In 2009, when Distinguished Prof. Yitzhak Apeloig completed his tenure as Technion President, ATS supporters created a fund in his honor to bring world- leading visiting lecturers to the university. From that point on, Distinguished Prof. Apeloig had just one person in mind for the first lecturer: Cornell University Professor and Nobel Laureate Roald Hoffmann. That wish became a reality on January 3, 2013, when Prof. Hoffmann delivered the inaugural Yitzhak Apeloig Distinguished Lectureship at the Technion's Schulich Faculty of Chemistry Colloquium.

Prof. Hoffmann, Cornell’s Frank H.T. Rhodes Professor of Humane Letters, addressed a packed lecture hall in a presentation titled: “The Chemical Imagination at Work in Tight Places” — an exploration of what happens to materials under very high pressures, such as at the center of the earth. Before the presentation, Prof. Hoffmann lunched with a dozen graduate students, insisting that no faculty members be present, including Distinguished Prof. Apeloig, to encourage the students’ free expression.

Hoffmann and Apeloig
Professors Roald Hoffmann and Yitzhak Apeloig

“The visit was a great success, setting a very high bar for future Apeloig Distinguished Lecturers,” says Prof. Apeloig, who has a distinguished academic career for his contributions in organosilicon chemistry, computational chemistry and mechanistic organic chemistry.

Prof. Hoffmann was born in Poland and survived World War II by hiding with his mother in a schoolhouse attic (his father perished.) They immigrated to the U.S. in 1949, and he received his first scientific recognition, a Westinghouse science scholarship, in high school. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Columbia University, his master’s and doctoral degrees from Harvard University, and went on to carve out a specialty in applied theoretical chemistry.

At age 44, Prof. Hoffmann won the 1981 Nobel Prize in Chemistry (with the deceased Japanese chemist Kenichi Fukui) for their theories concerning the course of chemical reactions. Prof. Hoffmann's discovery “entirely changed the way that chemists analyze and understand chemical reactions,” says Prof. Apeloig. The discovery, however, “was only the prelude for his many scientific groundbreaking contributions that followed.”

In addition to his groundbreaking scientific discoveries, Prof. Hoffmann made enormous contributions to popularizing chemistry. He wrote popular science books, created a televised mini-course in chemistry and hosts the monthly cabaret, “Entertaining Science” at the Cornelia Street Café in Greenwich Village. A Renaissance man, he is an accomplished poet and playwright. In 1987, Prof. Hoffmann published “The Metamict State,” the first of several collections of poetry.  He has also penned three plays, including “Oxygen,” co-written with a fellow chemist, which has been performed worldwide.

Distinguished Prof. Apeloig is a pioneer in the use of computations based on the Theory of Quantum Mechanics for predicting the physical and chemical properties of materials, and for suggesting methods for preparing them. His research opened the door for the synthesis of new silicon compounds that most chemists believed did not exist, for which he has received numerous awards. In 2010, he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and received the Frederic Stanley Kipping Award of the American Chemical Society — the most important prize in the field of silicon chemistry.

Distinguished Prof. Apeloig currently holds the Joseph Israel Freund Chair in Chemistry and is co-director of the Lise Meitner Minerva Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry (jointly in the Technion Schulich Faculty of Chemistry and the Hebrew University).  The hallmarks of his Technion presidency (2001-2009) were the recruitment of more than 150 elite scholars and scientists worldwide to the Technion and the establishment of several interdisciplinary research centers such as the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute and the Lorry I. Lokey Interdisciplinary Center for Life Sciences and Engineering. One of the most popular and respected academic figures on campus, he served as dean of the Faculty of Chemistry from 1995 to 1999, and was named Teacher of the Year on three separate occasions. Honoring his service with the Visiting Lectureship was the brainchild of Larry Jackier, Chairman of the Technion International Board of Governors.

Click here to watch the lecture on the Technion You Tube channel.


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