Science + Technology

UCLA Chemist Fraser Stoddart Named Director of California NanoSystems Institute

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Fraser Stoddart, an internationally renowned chemist whowill occupy UCLA's Fred Kavli Chair in nanosystems sciences, has beenappointed director of the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) by UCLAChancellor Albert Carnesale.

Stoddart's areas of expertise encompass a wide range ofnano-related topics and include carbon nanotubes, chemical sensors, dynamiccombinatorial libraries, nanoelectronics, nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS),mechanically interlocked molecules, molecular machines, molecular nanotechnology,molecular self-assembly processes, molecular recognition, supramolecularpolymers and template-directed synthesis. He is a pioneer in the development ofthe mechanical bond in chemistry.

"He has played a leading role in devising ingenious ways ofmaking mechanically interlocked molecules called catenanes and rotaxanes," saidRoberto Peccei, UCLA vice-chancellor of research.

Catenanes are composed of two or more rings that aremutually interlocked like a chain. Rotaxanes consist of one or more ringstrapped on a rod by bulky stoppers at either end, in a manner reminiscent of anabacus. Catenanes and rotaxanes serve as the prototypes of nanoscale molecularswitches and motor-molecules. Stoddart has shown how they can be employed ininformation processing and in the construction of artificial molecularmachinery.

"Fraser Stoddart is widely recognized as one of the most innovativeorganic chemists in the world," Chancellor Carnesale said. "Under Fraser'sleadership, the CNSI will conduct world-class research at the frontier ofscience and technology. I am confident that future breakthroughs at theCNSI will be of great benefit to our state, our nation and the world."

A joint enterprise between UCLA and UCSB, the CNSI isexploring the power and potential of organizing and manipulating matteratom-by-atom, molecule-by-molecule, to engineer "new devices and systems whichwill extend the scope of many existing technologies and foster commercialdevelopment far beyond anything we might have contemplated up until now," saidStoddart, who currently holds UCLA's Saul Winstein Chair in organic chemistry.

Nanosystems-related research is performed on a size-scaleranging from a nanometer – one billionth of a meter – to a few hundrednanometers. Chemists sometimes refer to this as the 'mesomolecular gap,' wherethe properties of the materials can assume a special significance that isrelated to their whole rather than to their parts.

The DNA molecule is two nanometers wide – roughly 1,000times smaller than a red blood cell and 10,000 times smaller than the diameterof a human hair. Researchers are increasingly being inspired by biology and themedical sciences to engineer nanoscopic materials for device fabrication,secure in the knowledge that unique combinations of matter will lead tounexpected properties and remarkable device performances.

Stoddart, formerly the CNSI's scientific co-director, saidthe institute will "create a corridor between Los Angeles and Santa Barbarathat will become a conduit for invention and innovation across a broad range ofdisciplines, where size at the nanoscale level will be a unifying theme forcreative thinking and achievement. Wemay be witnessing the emergence of the 'Rome of the West' here in California."

A common theme of Stoddart's research is the quest for abetter fundamental understanding of self-assembly and molecular recognitionprocesses in chemical systems. He has been working for more than a quarter of acentury on using this growing understanding to develop template-directedprotocols that rely upon such processes to create molecular switches andmotor-molecules. Underlying his bottom-up approach to the construction offunctioning nanosystems is Stoddart's philosophy of transferring concepts frombiology into chemistry.

Despite the rarefied scientific atmosphere, Stoddart'shighly specialized world might be more akin to that of an engineer or an artistthan a scientist. In fact, in his quest to create mechanoelectrochemicalsystems, Stoddart likens himself to the painter who creates abstracts, ratherthan one who produces landscapes and portraits.

As a vivid illustration of the template-directed approach tochemical synthesis, Stoddart and his team have produced a molecular version ofthe five-ring Olympic symbol, which they call Olympiadane. The size of a smallprotein, this symbolic molecule is just over four nanometers long and about ananometer and a half in diameter.Recently, the team created the molecular counterpart of Borromean ringsby bringing 18 components together spontaneously in one highly efficientself-assembly step. These rings, which owe their name to a symbol on the crestof the Borromeo family in Renaissance Italy, are only three in number, yet areinterlocked in such a manner that if any one of them is broken, the wholeassembly falls apart. Stoddart believes that this latest triumph might wellfind application in the emerging area of nanospintronics, which attempts toexploit the spinning motion of an electron, as well as its charge.

Stoddart has published almost 700 scientific papers and isamong the top 10 most frequently cited chemists of the past decade, accordingto the Institute for Scientific Information. His research in the area ofnanoelectronics was highlighted in the journal Science as the "Breakthrough ofthe Year" in 2001. In December 2001,Stoddart was among 15 luminaries in chemistry to join seven Nobel Prize winnersin Stockholm at the Nobel Jubilee Symposium "Frontiers of Molecular Sciences."

At present, Stoddart's group is focusing on employing thenumerous methods of self-organization of molecules to marshal not onlycatenanes and rotaxanes but other interlocked molecules, which behave likemuscles and elevators in polymers, in condensed phases, on surfaces and at interfaces,and act as thick, single-molecule layers in solid-state devices. A fundamentalunderstanding of the operation of these half and full devices is a prerequisitefor making meaningful progress in the design and construction ofnanoelectromechanical systems.

A recent bonus from these investigations is the emergence ofan electrochromical system in which red, green and blue can be generated withina single molecule. This holds out the intriguing prospect that Stoddart'smolecular switches could become the basis for the displays in a futuregeneration of computers and other technologies. Stoddart is quick to point out,however, that it is not the prospect of applications that drives his researchprogram forward.

"It is the opportunity to take a unique class of functioningmolecular nanosystems and put them through their paces in differentenvironments and note how their performance changes on going from one settingto another," he said. "For there to be any genuinely new nanotechnology, theremust first of all be good, sound nanoscience, based on a fundamentalunderstanding of the principles that emerge from enlightening and penetratingexperimentation, carried out in an incremental way."

Stoddart is the recipient of many awards, including theInternational Izatt-Christensen Award in Macrocyclic Chemistry (1993), theAmerican Chemical Society's Cope Scholar Award (1999) and the Nagoya Gold Medalin Organic Chemistry (2004). He serveson the international advisory boards of numerous journals, including theJournal of Organic Chemistry, Angewandte Chemie and the European Journal ofChemistry. He is the editor of the Royal Society of Chemistry's monographseries on supramolecular chemistry. In July 2003, he became an associate editorof the journal Organic Letters. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society ofLondon in 1994 and of the German Academy of Natural Sciences (the Leopoldina)in 1999.

Since 1992, Stoddart has published more than 70 papers inthe "Molecular Meccano" series, a joint project of the Journal of the AmericanChemical Society, the Journal of Organic Chemistry and the European Journal ofChemistry. His research has been summarized in high-profile reviews andjournals (Accounts of Chemical Research, Chemical Reviews and Angewandte Chemie)and has been the subject of numerous cover stories (Accounts of ChemicalResearch, Angewandte Chemie and Bioconjugate Chemistry in 2001; ChemPhysChem in2002; and Macromolecules, Applied Physics Letters and Nanotechnology in 2003).

Stoddart has delivered more than 600 invited lectures aroundthe world. He has been honored as a named lecturer at many universities,including, in the past 12 months, the Liversidge Lecture at the University ofSydney in Australia, the Spinks Lectures at the University of Saskatchewan inCanada and the Lansdowne Lectures at the University of Victoria in Canada. Hehas been elected a Carnegie Centenary Professor for 2005 to contribute to theacademic and scientific developments in Scottish universities. His formergraduate students and postdoctoral fellows occupy senior positions inuniversities, government laboratories and industry throughout North America,Europe, the Middle East, India, Japan, Korea and Australia.

Stoddart came to UCLA in 1997 from England's University ofBirmingham, where he was a professor of organic chemistry and headed theuniversity's school of chemistry.

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1942, Stoddart received hisB.Sc. (1964) and Ph.D. (1966) degrees from Edinburgh University, where heworked with Sir Edmund Hirst. He pursued postdoctoral studies with Ken Jones atQueen's University (1967–69) in Canada, and with David Ollis at SheffieldUniversity (1970) in England as an Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) researchfellow. He was appointed a lecturer in chemistry at Sheffield University in1970, and was promoted to a readership in 1981 after a sabbatical period atUCLA (1978) with Donald Cram and at the ICI corporate laboratory in Runcorn,England (1978–81). He was awarded aD.Sc. degree by the University of Edinburgh 1980 for his research onstereochemistry beyond the molecule. In 1990, Stoddart moved to the chair oforganic chemistry at the University of Birmingham. He joined UCLA's faculty in1997.

Stoddart succeeded Donald Cram, the 1987 Nobel laureate inchemistry, as holder of UCLA's Saul Winstein Chair in organic chemistry.

Stoddart is passionate in his belief that the CNSI must havea vigorous intellectual life in order to generate intellectual property. Tothis end, he has launched a relentless drive to bring the international leadersin nanosystems-related research to UCLA on a weekly basis to meet with facultyand students under the auspices of a CNSI-sponsored seminar series. Inaddition, the CNSI organizes regular one-day symposia, debates and poster days,with participation by faculty and students from UCLA and UCSB, to which leadersin business, commerce, education, government and industry are invited. The CNSIwill hold its first UCLA NanoSystems International Symposium on Dec. 13, 2003.

Over the next couple years, the CNSI anticipates theappointment of between 15 and 20 new faculty members associated with variousdepartments in a wide range of colleges and schools at both UCLA and UCSB.According to Stoddart, "A bottom-up approach to enhancing the internationalstature of the institute will be crucial to bringing about the sea-change thatis necessary to do cutting-edge research in a highly collaborative manneracross numerous disciplines. A historically vertical structure in universities hasto yield to a much more horizontal one where boundaries are blurred andterritory and property are much less well-defined and guarded."

"The CNSI is poised to help drive the state's economy withevolutionary advances in health care and medical treatment, in environmentalremediation and protection, in information technology, in homeland security,and in multimedia entertainment," Stoddart said.

The Winstein Chair will be held in abeyance while Stoddartserves as director of the CNSI.

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