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ACS Award In Theoretical Chemistry

by Elizabeth K. Wilson
February 2, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 5

Credit: Courtesy of Mark Gordon
Mark Gordon, Frances M. Craig Chair and Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at Iowa State University.
Credit: Courtesy of Mark Gordon

Sponsored by ACS

Mark S. Gordon, the Frances M. Craig Chair and Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at Iowa State University, is a fixture in modern computational and theoretical chemistry. He’s known as one of the key developers of the powerful quantum chemistry software package GAMESS, as well as for numerous contributions to chemical theory itself. It’s his latter achievements, which include the advancement of the study of reaction mechanisms and spectra in condensed phases, that have earned him this most recent award.

Gordon has a rare ability to recognize important chemical problems, which he solves using novel ideas, linking rigorous numerical results to conceptual models accessible to all chemists,” says Piotr Piecuch, a professor of chemistry at Michigan State University. “His leadership and phenomenal productivity have made Iowa State University one of the world’s foremost theoretical chemistry centers.”

As Piecuch explains, “chemical phenomena often occur in condensed phases,” so “the key challenge for quantum chemistry has been the development of affordable approaches that can accurately account for the effects of environment on reaction mechanisms and spectra.”

Gordon, 73, made inroads into this effort in the 1990s by developing the effective fragment potential methodology. This major theoretical advance allowed chemists to model solvent effects, dealing with multiple types of intermolecular interactions. Gordon expanded this methodology over the years to include even more complex systems, such as excited-state structures and dynamics.

Gordon has tackled many other problems in his career, notes Thom H. Dunning Jr., codirector of the Northwest Institute for Advanced Computing and a chemistry professor at the University of Washington. “His research has provided new insights into the quantum mechanical description of the hydrogen bond, as well as the interaction of water with neutral molecules and anions and the collective interactions in aqueous solutions that give rise to the unique properties of liquid and solid water,” Dunning says.

“This work, combined with the effective fragment potential (EFP) method developed in his group, has led to a better understanding of the impact of solvation on molecular properties, such as electronic excitation energies,” Dunning says.

Gordon received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1963. He did his graduate work at Carnegie Mellon University under the late Nobelist John A. Pople, obtaining a Ph.D. in 1968.

After a postdoc at Iowa State, Gordon began his first professorship at North Dakota State University in Fargo. He returned to Iowa in 1992, and he became a distinguished professor in 1998. He was also the director of the Applied Mathematical Sciences Program at Ames National Laboratory from 1997 to 2014.

Gordon has published more than 560 papers with 36,000 citations. He has numerous awards under his belt, including the ACS Award for Computers in Chemical & Pharmaceutical Research in 2009. From 1993 to 1997, he was the vice chair-elect, vice chair, chair-elect, and chair of the Theoretical Chemistry Subdivision of the ACS Division of Physical Chemistry.

He is a fellow of ACS, the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science. A special issue of Theoretical Chemistry Accounts in 2008 was dedicated to Gordon in honor of his 65th birthday.

Gordon will present his award address before the Division of Physical Chemistry.


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