Sydney professor honoured with prestigious award

Thursday, 24 May, 2007

Two respected chemists across the world from one another will share the 2007 Welch Award in Chemistry, bestowed for their achievements in theoretical chemistry.

Noel S. Hush, Emeritus Professor at the University of Sydney, and William H. Miller, Distinguished Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, will share the annual Welch Award.

The Welch Foundation, based in Houston, is one of America's oldest and largest sources of private funding for basic research in chemistry.

"The fundamental theoretical work by Dr. Hush and Dr. Miller in chemical dynamics gives the scientific community powerful, basic research tools," said J. Evans Attwell, chair of the Welch Foundation. "Their work not only gives us a much better understanding of chemical processes, but also sets the stage for future scientific discoveries and applications that can benefit mankind."

"Much of our current worldwide research " from nanotechnology to drug design " depends strongly on the models and methods developed by Drs. Hush and Miller," said James Kinsey of the Welch Scientific Advisory Board. "Working separately and using quantum mechanics as their theoretical base to try and explain the properties of molecules and the ways they react, both scientists have contributed greatly to our understanding of a number of chemical phenomena."

Hush is most well known for his development, starting in the late 1950s, of a model for electron transfer in inorganic and biological compounds. The Marcus-Hush theory allows chemists to understand reactions and test ideas and has offered considerable insight into the mechanisms of photosynthesis.

"I find it very satisfying to not only solve a problem, which may involve very heavy computation, but to be able to derive from the solution an essentially simple reason for the phenomenon," said Hush.

Miller's research deals with essentially all aspects of molecular collision theory and chemical reaction dynamics. He invented a semiclassical scattering theory (the classical S-matrix theory), a methodology that has had wide implications extending even in the fields of high energy physics and elementary particle theory.

"Theoretical research provides the foundation for basic chemical investigations in many areas of application," said Miller. "I have found it extremely exciting and gratifying to have been able to make contributions to the fundamental theory that provides the framework for solving problems at the molecular level."

The Welch Foundation will present the $300,000 award and gold medallions to Hush and Miller at a banquet in their honour in October.

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