Piotr Piecuch named Lawrence J. Schaad Lecturer in Theoretical Chemistry

Published April 10, 2017

Piotr Piecuch

Piotr Piecuch, University Distinguished Professor of chemistry and adjunct professor of physics and astronomy in the MSU College of Natural Science, was selected as the 2017 Lawrence J. Schaad Lecturer in Theoretical Chemistry by Vanderbilt University.

The lectureship is named after the late Lawrence Joseph Schaad, who was a professor of chemistry at Vanderbilt, and who remains an icon and inspiration in the field of theoretical chemistry. Schaad, who joined Vanderbilt University 1961, received his Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under the direction of C. Gardner Swain. While there, he helped derive what has become known as the Swain-Schaad equation, which is widely used in chemical kinetics literature to this day. Schaad published over 150 scientific papers during his tenure, along with a book, Hydrogen Bonding (co-authored with Melvin Joesten).

The lectureship was established by Schaad’s wife, Nancy, in tribute to her husband and his legacy in theoretical chemistry, following his death in 2009.

Piecuch’s research focuses on electronic and nuclear structure theories, theory of intermolecular forces, and applications of computational approaches to chemical reactivity, catalysis, bioinorganic chemistry and photochemistry. His Schaad lecture, which he presented at Vanderbilt on April 5, was titled “Understanding photochemistry and photoelectron spectra with coupled-cluster theory.”

“I am honored and delighted to be recognized in this way,” Piecuch said. “I have actually used papers by Professor Schaad on cyclobutadiene and trimethylemethane in my own work on new methods for biradicals and antiaromatic species, and even found out, when preparing the lecture a few days ago, that one of his papers and one of mine can be seen on the same page in the online version of the Journal of the American Chemical Society. Professor Schaad has done a lot for theoretical chemistry, inspiring many of us working in this area. He is greatly missed.”

Piecuch, who joined MSU in 1998, received his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Wroclaw, Poland. While at MSU, he has held visiting professorships in the United States, Japan and Portugal, and received numerous national and international honors, including being named a Fellow of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Physical Society and the Royal Society of Chemistry. He is also an elected member of the European Academy of Sciences, Arts and Humanities; a Distinguished Fellow of the Kosciuszko Foundation Collegium of Eminent Scientists; and was an Invited Fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.

“Piotr is a world renowned theoretician, so it is not surprising that Vanderbilt chose him as their 2017 Schaad lecturer,” said Robert Maleczka, professor and chair of the MSU Department of Chemistry. Nonetheless, named lectureships are always a premier event for a chemistry department and it is wonderful to see Piotr recognized in this way.”

In addition to Piecuch, there have been three other lecturers since the lectureship was established: Professor Joachim Sauer, Humboldt University of Berlin (2010); Professor Dean Tantillo, University of California, Davis (2011); and Professor Bogumil Jeziorski, University of Warsaw, Poland (2015).