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Editor: Greta Heydenrych; Editorial Board Chairs: Christian Amatore, Michael Grätzel, Michel Orrit

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August 10, 2011

Peter Gill and Leticia González Receive WATOC Awards in Spain

Peter Gill and Leticia González Receive WATOC Awards in Spain

The World Association of Theoretical and Computational Chemists (WATOC) has awarded the 2011 Schrödinger Medal to Peter Gill of the Australian National University (ANU, Australia) and the 2011 Dirac Medal to Leticia González of the University of Jena (Germany). Gill and González received their prizes at this year's WATOC meeting, which was held in Santiago de Compostela (Spain) from July 17-22, 2011.

"The WATOC has two awards for scientific excellence", says Leo Radom, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Sydney (Australia) and president of the WATOC Board from 2005 to 2011. "The Schrödinger Medal is awarded annually to an outstanding senior theoretical/computational chemist, and the Dirac Medal is awarded annually to an outstanding theoretical/computational chemist under 40 years of age". Gill received this year's prize "for his outstanding contributions to intracules, Coulomb operator resolutions, perturbative techniques, and two-electron systems" while González was honored "for her outstanding contributions to the combination of accurate quantum chemical methods for electronic excited states with quantum reaction dynamics to control chemical reactions".

"I am delighted to have been awarded the 2011 Schrödinger Medal", Peter Gill says. "It is a wonderful accolade and recognizes the extraordinary hard work and success of a wonderful group of young men and women who have been PhD students and postdocs in my research groups at ANU, Nottingham, Cambridge and Massey". The possibility to work with such young, talented researchers is one of the things that make Gill's job so interesting. "It is a privilege to work with such clever and creative minds and I would say that, for me, that is the chief attraction of being an academic", he says.

Leticia González agrees that being a scientist can be extremely gratifying. "The job of a scientist is probably one of the most rewarding ones that exist, for it is a hobby and one is even paid for it! I like the freedom I enjoy, the diversity of things I have to do, the amount of interesting people I get to know, the countries that I can visit, and foremost, that I never get bored!" Now, her enthusiasm and dedication have brought her a further gratification: the Dirac Medal. "It was a fantastic feeling, both when Prof. Leo Radom first communicated it to me almost a year ago, and also during the WATOC conference in Santiago de Compostela this year, when the Medal was officially given to me", González says. "I felt very grateful to the number of teachers and friends who have accompanied me during all these years, and also to the many students and postdocs that enthusiastically have worked in my group and have contributed with their work to this success!"

The WATOC was founded in 1982 (originally with a different name) to encourage the development and application of theoretical methods in chemistry. During the last decades, research in this field has become increasingly important. According to Gill, there are several reasons for this: "First, the speed of computers continues to increase exponentially, allowing us to apply our methods to ever-more-complicated chemical systems. Secondly, chemists, physicists, mathematicians and computer scientists continue to make significant algorithmic advances in the application of the Schrödinger equation to solve real chemical questions; and finally, "in silico" chemistry can be applied to problems where it is too dangerous, difficult or expensive to conduct laboratory experiments. Together, these arguments mean that the profile of computational chemistry will continue to grow in the foreseeable future", he says.

The next WATOC meeting will take place in Santiago de Chile in 2014 and the following prize announcements will most probably be made by the new President: Professor Walter Thiel of the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung in Mülheim an der Ruhr (Germany).

Kira Welter

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