THE BLAISE PASCAL MEDALS 2017

Blaise Pascal Medal in Chemistry

Professor Mike Mingos, University of Oxford (United Kingdom)


In recognition to his ground-breaking contributions and pioneering role in the areas of inorganic and structural chemistry where he profoundly influenced the development of the field.

Professor Mingos is an intellectual giant who has made transformative changes right across the area of inorganic and structural chemistry throughout his distinguished career. His contributions to the understanding of bonding in main group and transition metal clusters, through his own experimental and theoretical studies. His name is associated, in particular, with rules used to rationalise and predict the structures of polynuclear complexes that contain element-element bonds. The Wade-Mingos Rules are taught in most advanced inorganic courses in universities right across the world. He has published more than 500 publications and edited more than 100 books in the fields of experimental and theoretical chemistry, which cover an impressive range of topics from coordination chemistry, organometallic chemistry, cluster chemistry, clusters in molecular beams, boron chemistry, chemical bonding and microwave techniques for accelerating chemical reactions, catalysis and molecular recognition. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1992 and received numerous prestigious national and international awards.

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"Structural and Bonding Patterns in Molecular Clusters"

The synthesis and study of molecular cluster compounds has proved to be a recurrent theme in inorganic chemistry for more than 50 years. Initially the field attracted scientists because of the novel structures which were observed for these compounds in the solid state, but in recent years as the synthetic methods have become more sophisticated pure samples of molecular clusters containing 50-300 metal atoms have been made. Consequently their importance as nano-metal particles has become more important and their potential applications have been explored in more detail. This has also raised the question of the inter-relationships between molecular clusters and metal colloids, which were first studied by Faraday in the 19th Century at the laboratories of the Royal Institution. The study of gold cluster compounds originated from Malatesta’s syntheses of tertiaryphosphine derivatives in the 1960s and was greatly extended between 1970 and 2000 by groups in Oxford and Nijmegen. Single crystal X-ray studies defined the major structural classes and led to the development of a theoretical model which accounted for their closed shell requirements in terms of their topological features. This proved to be sufficiently flexible to be extended to related heteronuclear cluster compounds. Since the turn of the century the range of gold cluster compounds has been greatly extended by the study of organothiolato- gold cluster compounds. The structures of these compounds have revealed that the gold atoms combine with the organothiolato- ligands to generate a novel class of metallo-organothiolato- ligands which protect and stabilise the inner core of gold atoms. These developments originally suggested that the phosphine and organothiolato- clusters defined quite distinct classes of gold clusters, but recent structural and theoretical developments have reconciled many of these differences.

Although the lecture will discuss the structural implications which have emerged from the study of phosphine and thiolato- clusters of gold it will also seek to provide some broader principles and generalisations regarding clusters, colloids and nano-particles of metal atoms.


Blaise Pascal Medal in Engineering

Professor Nikita Morozov, St. Petersburg State University (Russia)


In recognition of his outstanding and innovative contributions to advanced nonlinear solid mechanics, fracture mechanics, and the related engineering applications.

Professor Nikita Morozov is famous for his pioneering studies of mathematical problems of plate and shell theory, stability and brittle fracture.

He suggested an innovative criterion of dynamic fracture under quick and super-quick loading and together with his colleagues developed new methods of testing structural materials for modern industry. N. Morozov initiated the creation of the Research and Development Centre “Dinamica” dealing with the problems of experimental fracture mechanics within St-Petersburg State University. His main research interests are in the area of nonlinear mechanics of solids, elasticity, integral equations, fracture mechanics. Over the last decide he has made seminal contributions in nanomechanics and nanotechnology, working out some theoretical foundation for predicting mechanical behavior of nanostructured materials accounting for the surface effects.

He has published more than 250 scientific papers and 8 monographs. He is recognized worldwide as an expert in modeling deformation and fracture processes. Nikita Morozov is academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He created one of the Leading Scientific Schools distinguished by the President of the Russian Federation. Because of his impressive scientific achievements, academician Morozov received numerous awards and distinctions. He has promoted cooperation of Russian and Foreign scientists, chaired and organized International conferences, symposia, and workshops in various fields of advanced mechanics and its applications.

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"Mechanics and nanomechanics"

Last 50 years we can see the great progress in the nanotechnology. Very many nanosize mechanisms work in the different regions of industry, biology etc. It is necessary to have a theory for analysis the work of nano-objects. This theory exists – it is classical theory taking account the surface effect (R. Miller, V.Shenoy,B.Karihaloo, H.Altenbach, etc.) We take in our investigation some classical problems (problem Kirsch, elastic plate with inclusion, system of parallel cracks etc.) and analyze the influence of surface effect on solution of problem.



Blaise Pascal Medal in Life Sciences

Professor Francisco J. Ayala, University of California, Irvine (United States)


In recognition of his outstanding contribution to the field of evolution and experimental evolutionary biology.

Professor Ayala is one of the most prolific and important evolutionary biologists of our time. He has spearheaded the new field of molecular evolutionary genetics and has been the leading figure among the group of evolutionists who discerned the involvement of natural selection in the evolution of proteins.

Prof Ayala has published more than 1100 articles and is author or editor of some 50 books, He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society, as well as a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London. He is also a member of the Royal Academy of Sciences of Spain, the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (Italy), the Mexican Academy of Sciences, the Latin American Institute for Advanced Studies, and the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts as well as a Foreign Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

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"Two Revolutions: Copernicus and Darwin"

Darwin occupies an exalted place in the history of Western thought, deservedly receiving credit for the theory of evolution. However, Darwin accomplished something much more important than demonstrating evolution. Darwin’s Origin of Species is, first and foremost, a sustained argument to solve the problem of how to account scientifically for the design of organisms. Accumulating evidence for common descent with diversification may very well have been a subsidiary objective of Darwin’s masterpiece. Darwin seeks to explain the design of organisms, their complexity, diversity, and marvelous contrivances as the result of natural processes. Darwin brings about the evidence for evolution because evolution is a necessary consequence of his theory of design.

The advances of physical science brought about by the Copernican Revolution had driven mankind's conception of the universe to a split-personality state of affairs. Scientific explanations, derived from natural laws, dominated the world of nonliving matter, on the Earth as well as in the heavens. Supernatural explanations, which depended on the unfathomable deeds of the Creator, were accepted as explanations of the origin and configuration of living creatures. Authors, such as William Paley in his Natural Theology of 1802, had developed the “argument from design,” the notion that the complex design of organisms could not have come about by chance, or by the mechanical laws of physics, chemistry, and astronomy, but was rather accomplished by an Omnipotent Deity.

It was Darwin's genius to resolve this conceptual schizophrenia. Darwin completed the Copernican Revolution by drawing out for biology the notion of nature as a lawful system of matter in motion that human reason can explain without recourse to supernatural agencies. The complex organization and functionality of living beings can be explained as the result of a natural process—natural selection—without any need to resort to a Creator or other external agent. The origin and adaptations of organisms in their profusion and wondrous variations were thus brought into the realm of science.



Blaise Pascal Medal in Materials Science

Professor Luis Liz-Marzan, Center for Cooperative Research in Biomaterials, CIC biomaGUNE (Spain)


In recognition of his contributions to the understanding of nanocrystal growth and self-assembly, plasmonic properties and sensing applications.

Professor Liz-Marzán is one of the pioneers in the field of metal nanoparticle synthesis using colloid chemistry methods. He has made a large impact with his contributions to understanding anisotropic crystal growth in the nanoscale and applying this knowledge to improve the quality of nanoparticles with well defined size and shape. He also developed methods to coat metal nanocrystals with organic and inorganic shells, as a means to improve colloidal stability and facilitate directed self-assembly. As a result of his contributions to synthesis and assembly, it has been possible to experimentally verify theoretical predictions based on electromagnetic modeling. His group has also made outstanding contributions to the application of gold and silver nanoparticles and their assemblies as substrates for the enhancement of Raman scattering by nearby molecules, resulting in the ultrasensitive detection of bio-relevant molecules. Liz-Marzán has consistently maintained an open mind toward the scope of his research, which allowed him to establish a large network of collaborators worldwide. His work has been acknowledged nationally and internationally and he has presented inspiring lectures (about 300) on numerous international conferences on colloid chemistry, nanoplasmonics and nanomedicine. He has published more than 400 scientific papers; he was a Humboldt Awardee of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, received the Medal of the Spanish Royal Society of Chemistry and has been elected corresponding member of the Royal Academy of Sciences of Spain, among other prestigious awards.

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"Colloidal Nanoplasmonics"

Nanoplasmonics refers to the manipulation of light using materials with sizes much smaller than the radiation wavelength. This is typically achieved using nanostructured metals, as they can efficiently absorb and scatter light because of their ability to support coherent oscillations of free (conduction) electrons. Although the remarkable optical response of “finely divided” metals is well known since more than 150 years ago, the recent development of sophisticated characterization techniques and modeling methods has dramatically reactivated the field. Another extremely important pillar on which the development of nanoplasmonics has been the remarkable advancement in fabrication methods, which provide us with an exquisite control over the composition and morphology of nanostructured metals. Both lithography and solution chemistry provide tools for exquisite fabrication control, to a degree that seemed impossible only a decade ago. In particular, Colloid Chemistry methods provide us with (apparent) simplicity and large scale production, while offering a number of parameters that can be used to direct not only nanoparticle morphology but also surface properties, assembly and subsequent processing. Interestingly, by fine tuning of nanoparticle size and shape, the optical (plasmonic) response, i.e. the resonance wavelength and the ratio between absorption and scattering can be tailored toward specific applications, such as energy conversion, photothermal therapy, sensing and diagnostics, among others.

This talk will focus on the basics and some recent advances in the field of “colloidal nanoplasmonics”, highlighting promising directions in the various aspects involved, from synthesis to applications.

References
[1] M. Faraday, Philos. Trans. Royal Soc. London 1857, 147, 145.
[2] M. Grzelczak, L. M. Liz-Marzán, Langmuir 2013, 29, 4652-4663.



Blaise Pascal Medal in Mathematics

Professor Felix Otto, Max Planck Institute (Germany)


In recognition for seminal contributions on stochastic homogenization, calculus of variations, functional analysis and applications to thin-film micro magnetism.

Felix OTTO has invented methods which are internationally recognized beyond the mathematics community. His name is already attached to concepts as the Jordan-Kinderlehrer-Otto scheme (JKO scheme), the gradient flow structure of porous media, the Otto-Villani inequality in functional analysis, the Kohn-Müller-Otto theory of thin-film micromagnetism. He had an exceptional impact on generations of famous mathematicians with 120 papers published in a variety of different fields ranging from geometry to applications of mathematics. He is a member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina among other prestigious distinctions.

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"Randomness in Partial Differential Equations"

In applications, we often do not know the exact details of a heterogeneous medium. Here, randomness in the coefficients of a typically elliptic partial differential equation is used to express a lack of knowledge. Nevertheless, some properties of the solution are robust under this lack of knowledge. This is the area of Stochastic Homogenization.

Thermal fluctuations typically give rise to a driving force that appears as a right-hand side in an often nonlinear parabolic partial differential equation. How to develop a notion of solution in the presence of nonlinearity and a rough right-hand side is the subject of the area of Stochastic Partial Differential Equations (SPDE).

While Homogenization capitalizes on random cancellations on large scales, SPDE copes with roughness on small scales. However, both directions have to confront similar issues in elliptic/parabolic regularity theory.