30 December 2006, UCLA
Scotlandís Fraser Stoddart adds Knight Bachelor to his List of Honours
Scottish Professor Fraser Stoddart, director of the prestigious California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI), who holds UCLA's Fred Kavli Chair in Nanosystems Sciences, has been appointed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as Knight Bachelor for Services to Chemistry and Molecular Nanotechnology.
Stoddart says that when he broke the news about his award – which came like a bolt out of the blue – to his two daughters, Fiona and Alison, their response was, “That’s really cool, Dad.” Stoddart adds that, “This special honour is a reflection, not only of my own achievements, but also the considerable support that I have received from my academic colleagues, my students and, above all, my late wife Norma. It also recognizes the significance and relevance of chemistry to everyday life and the international standing of CNSI at the beginning of 2007.”
Over the period January 1996 to August 2006, Stoddart is ranked by Thomas Scientific as the world’s third most cited researcher in chemistry. He has published more than 770 communications, papers and reviews, and delivered more than 700 invited lectures around the world.
He is one of the few chemists to have created a new field of chemistry over the past quarter of a century, by introducing an additional bond, the mechanical bond, into chemical compounds. He has pioneered the development of the use of molecular recognition and self-assembly to make mechanically interlocked compounds called catenanes (two or more rings interlocked as in the links of a chain) and rotaxanes (a dumbbell-shaped component with at least one ring threaded in a manner reminiscent of an abacus).
Although, in the first generation of these exotic molecular compounds, the components which move relatively between two states were indistinguishable, in the second generation, bistability was introduced; resulting in the making of the world’s tiniest ON/OFF (molecular) switches of around a cubic nanometer in volume. Subsequently, these molecular switches have been incorporated, at high densities, into molecular random access memory (RAM) circuits.
The scope of Stoddart’s research has broadened over the years under the umbrella of activities he calls “Molecular Meccano” as a result of his introducing the two-state molecular switches into devices where actuation becomes the key to their operation. He has, for example, designed and made nanovalves which consist of moving parts in the form of many switchable rotaxane molecules attached to a tiny sphere of porous glass about 500 nanometers in diameter. The channels in the porous glass are long but only a few nanometers in diameter, just big enough to allow small molecules to enter. These nanovalves, which are very much smaller than living cells, are capable of crossing cell membranes and are now being adapted to be used as highly targeted drug-delivery systems towards, for example, cancerous cells, as well as to harvest the contents of such cells, after the fashion of a lunar landing vehicle collecting samples of dust from the surface of the moon.
His former graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, inspired by his imagination and creativity, now occupy senior positions in universities, government laboratories and industries throughout North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, India, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Australia.
Stoddart came to UCLA in 1997 from England's University of Birmingham, where he had been professor of organic chemistry from 1990 and had headed up the university's School of Chemistry since 1994. In 2005, he received the honorary degree of doctor of science from Birmingham and also, just recently in early December, from the University of Twente in The Netherlands.
Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1942, Stoddart received his bachelor of science (1964) and Ph.D. (1966) degrees from the University of Edinburgh, where he worked with British chemist Sir Edmund Hirst. In 1967, he moved to Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada, as a National Research Council postdoctoral fellow and then, in 1970, to the University of Sheffield as an Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) research fellow before joining the faculty as a lecturer (assistant professor) in chemistry. He was a Science Research Council senior visiting fellow at UCLA in 1978. After spending a three-year “secondment” (1978-81) at the ICI Corporate Laboratory in Runcorn, England, he returned full-time to the University of Sheffield where he was promoted to a readership (associate professorship). He moved to the University of Birmingham in 1990.
He was awarded a Doctorate of Science by Edinburgh in 1980 for his research into chemistry beyond the molecule. He was also the recipient this year of the University of Edinburgh Alumnus of the Year 2005 Award. The award is presented annually to a former student of Edinburgh University for services to the community, or for achievements in the arts or sciences, or for their contributions to business, public or academic life. Previous winners include the British politician Lord Steel of Aikwood, the novelist Ian Rankin, and double Olympic Medalist Katherine Grainger.
Stoddart is a fellow of the Royal Society (1994), the German Academy of Natural Sciences (1999), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2005) and the Science Division of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (2006). He serves on the international advisory boards of numerous journals, including the Journal of Organic Chemistry, Angewandte Chemie, and Chemistry, A European Journal.
The CNSI, a joint enterprise between UCLA and the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), is exploring the power and potential of organizing and manipulating matter to engineer “new integrated and emergent systems and devices, by starting down at the nanoscale level, that will aid and abet information technology, energy production, storage and saving, environmental well-being and diagnosis, prevention and treatment of chronic and degenerative diseases with an impact that far outstretches our comprehension of life to date,” Stoddart reflected. He added that “the institute’s demonstrated ability to attract stellar faculty and awesome students has the potential to lead to the generation of a cadre of scientists, engineers, and artists, who will bring prosperity and enlightenment to the State of California beyond anything that humankind has witnessed since the onset of civilization.”
For more information about Stoddart’s research, please see http://stoddart.chem.ucla.edu/.
Iinterview with Science Watch (late 2005)
Also of interest is “From a Meccano Set to Nano Meccano” published in Pure & Applied Chemistry in 2005, Vol. 77, No. 7 pp. 1089-1106. This article is available on request from Professor Stoddart.
Story posted: 3rd January 2007.
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