Presented by Professor George Whitesides

Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University


Many of the most interesting subjects in modern science ("life" and the cell, weather, large-scale disturbances such as forest fires, traffic, and so on) involve complex, dissipative systems:  that is, systems of many components that interact while dissipating some form(s) of free energy, and exhibit unanticipated behaviors.  We are examining models for such systems using a strategy that that is the opposite of that used in physics:  we intentionally design and build them synthetically, rather than studying systems that already exist in nature. This strategy has the advantage that it both leads to tractable studies, and leads to the discovery of phenomena that can be used in other ways.  


George M. Whitesides earned a bachelor's degree from Harvard in 1960 and a Ph.D. from the Caltech in 1964. He was a faculty member at the MIT from 1963 to 1982 and then at Harvard since 1982. He is the Woodford L. & Ann A. Flowers University Professor at Harvard University.

Whitesides is the author of more than 1200 research papers (with average of over 100 citations per paper), and holds over 130 patents. He has mentored hundreds of scientists who now hold influential positions in academia, industry, and government. Whitesides is the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious National Medal of Science (1998) and Priestley Medal (2007), and has the highest Hirsch index rating of all living chemists (2011). Whitesides' current research interests include chemistry, materials science, biophysics, the role of water in biomolecular recognition, the hydrophobic effect, complexity and emergence, surface science, microfluidics, paper as a material, self-assembly, micro- and nanotechnology, healthcare for developing economies, catalysis, origin of life, dissipative systems, soft robotics, rational drug design, simplicity, and info-chemistry.​

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