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Celebrating the Centenary of Marie Curie’s Chemistry Nobel

March 6, 2012

Nobel Laureate Roald Hoffman

Edyta Greer, an Assistant Professor of Computational Chemistry at Baruch College, recently co-authored “Marie Curie: Pioneering Discoveries and Humanitarianism” in Helvetica Chimica Acta (2011 Nov; 94(11):1893-1907). Dr. Greer’s article is a tribute to the only person to have won Nobel Prizes in different scientific disciplines. Her achievements are unparallelled.

With her colleague, David Gruber, an Assistant Professor of Biology and Environmental Science at Baruch, Dr. Greer organized a symposium to mark the 100-year anniversary of Marie Curie’s 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her discovery of the elements radium and polonium. The event was held on November 14, 2011 at Baruch College.

The symposium was organized by Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Edyta Greer and Assistant Professor of Biology, David Gruber, to both commemorate Curie’s achievements and to celebrate women, diversity and creative thought in the sciences more generally. Over 130 faculty and students from across the University attended the event.

Roald Hoffmann (winner of Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1981 jointly with Kenichi Fukui “for their theories, developed independently, concerning the course of chemical reactions”) provided the keynote lecture entitled, Chemistry’s Essential Tensions: Three Views of a Science. Hoffman, who is a Holocaust survivor, discussed how reading Marie Curie’s diaries as a child was a great source of inspiration for him. In his lecture, he sought to bridge the gap between popular perceptions of chemistry and how they relate to the practice of chemistry as a scientific pursuit.

In her introduction for Dr. Hoffman, CUNY Vice Chancellor for Research, Dr. Gillian Small reflected the achievements of the CUNY Decade of Science, and on the importance of Marie Curie to all women in scientific careers. Dr. Small stated, “Marie Curie was not only an excellent scientist, but she opened the door for women everywhere, and is a personal hero of mine.”

Following the lecture, over 35 student researchers presented their work in a poster session.  Roald Hoffmann, faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates were all invited to participate in the poster presentations and comment on the research projects.

Hoffmann is also a published poet and playwright who written several plays, including “Oxygen,” which he co-wrote with fellow chemist Carl Djerassi.  The event culminated with a staged reading of “Oxygen” performed by the local theater group, Break A Leg Productions.