Nobel laureate Walter Kohn to present public lectures at UCLA May 29 and 30
By Stuart Wolpert May 22, 2012 Category: Campus News
Walter Kohn, the Nobel laureate in chemistry from UC Santa Barbara, will deliver free public lectures at UCLA on Tuesday, May 29, and Wednesday, May 30 — the inaugural events in the UCLA Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics' annual Green Family Lecture Series.
Kohn's May 29 talk, "A World Predominately Powered by Solar and Wind Energy," will take place at 4 p.m. at the Fowler Museum's Lenart Auditorium and will be followed by a reception (R.S.V.P. and information).
His research lecture on May 30, "Electronic Structure of Matter: Wave Functions and Density Functionals," will begin at 4 p.m. in the auditorium of the California NanoSystems Institute and will also be followed by a reception (R.S.V.P. and information).
Born in 1923 in Vienna, Kohn was forced to leave public high school because of Nazi policies. He enrolled in a Jewish school, where two excellent teachers inspired him to pursue mathematics and physics. As war loomed in 1939, his parents sent him to Britain, where he was soon classified as an "enemy alien" and sent to Canada. After almost two years of internment, he entered the mathematics and physics program at the University of Toronto while working on designs for electrical instruments for American bombers. Toward the end of World War II, he served in the Canadian infantry.
After earning bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Toronto, Kohn received his Ph.D. in nuclear physics and completed a postdoctoral fellowship with Julian Schwinger at Harvard University. In the early 1950s, he worked at Bell Telephone Laboratories as an assistant to the group that developed the transistor.
Kohn has made major contributions to the physics of semiconductors, superconductivity, surface physics and catalysis. In 1979, he was chosen as founding director of the Institute of Theoretical Physics at UC Santa Barbara. Under his leadership, the institute quickly developed into one of the world's leading physics research centers.
Kohn has received many awards, including the National Medal of Science, and his role in creating density functional theory, the most widely used theory of the electronic structure of matter, earned him the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1998.
He currently is working on macular degeneration, renewable energies and global warming.
The Green Family Lecture Series is funded by the family of Mark L. Green, a UCLA professor emeritus of mathematics and co-founder and longtime director of the Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics (IPAM). In December 2011, Green was selected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
IPAM is a national research institute funded by the National Science Foundation that fosters interdisciplinary collaboration among mathematical scientists and physical scientists, engineers, biologists, medical researchers, and researchers in the humanities and social sciences. IPAM launches new collaborations and broadens the range of applications in which mathematics is used.
"Since it opened in 2000, IPAM has served as a catalyst for the interaction of science and math, bringing in the world's leading scientists and mathematicians to collaborate on a wide range of topics, including global warming, nanotechnology, neuroimaging, virtual surgery and crime prediction," said IPAM director Russel Caflisch. "IPAM presents public lectures by world-class scientists and mathematicians on cutting-edge topics aimed at UCLA students and faculty, as well as the broader community. Through our summer undergraduate research program and our events aimed at underrepresented groups, IPAM is contributing to expanding the base of students interested in mathematics and science."
UCLA is California's largest university, with an enrollment of nearly 38,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The UCLA College of Letters and Science and the university's 11 professional schools feature renowned faculty and offer 337 degree programs and majors. UCLA is a national and international leader in the breadth and quality of its academic, research, health care, cultural, continuing education and athletic programs. Six alumni and five faculty have been awarded the Nobel Prize.