From Dirac to Dreyfus

Michele Parrinello Wins Dreyfus Prize
From Dirac to Dreyfus

ICTP Scientific Council member and Dirac Medallist Michele Parrinello has won the 2017 Dreyfus Prize in the Chemical Sciences, conferred this year in Theoretical and Computational Chemistry. The international prize, awarded biennially, consists of $250,000, a medal, and a citation.

Parrinello, the first recipient from outside the United States, is honored for his groundbreaking developments of molecular dynamics simulation methodology and associated landmark studies of chemical, material, and biomolecular systems. He is a Professor at Università della Svizzera italiana and ETH Zurich.

Parrinello shared ICTP’s 2009 Dirac Medal with Roberto Car, Department of Chemistry, Princeton University, for developing the ab initio simulation method in which they combined the quantum mechanical density functional method for the calculation of the electronic properties of matter with molecular dynamics methods for the Newtonian simulation of atomic motions. The Car-Parrinello method has provided an all-important quantitative understanding of the properties of matter, while also allowing scientists and laymen alike to visualize atoms in motion during physical and chemical processes.

In a press release announcing the prize, Matthew Tirrell, Chair of the Dreyfus Foundation Scientific Affairs Committee, added perspective to Parrinello’s work: "Innovations in theoretical and computational chemistry underpin our understanding of biological interactions, chemical dynamics and structure, as well as many beneficial chemical technologies. Michele Parrinello is a giant in the field, whose innovations are widely used in chemistry, biology, materials science, and engineering."

More recently, Parrinello has developed what is called metadynamics and subsequently announced an efficient variational sampling process. This has allowed the calculation of complicated phenomena such as protein folding, crystallization from a liquid, or the binding of drugs to protein receptors.

Born in Messina, Italy, Parrinello received his Italian Laurea in physics from the University of Bologna in 1968. He has received many international honors in addition to the Dirac Medal, including the Rahman Prize, the Hewlett-Packard Europhysics Prize (all with Roberto Car), the Schroedinger Medal, the Enrico Fermi Prize, the Swiss Science Prize Marcel Benoist, and the American Chemical Society Award in Theoretical Chemistry. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, Socio corrispondente of the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (Italy), and a Member of the Royal Society (UK), the European Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and others.

--Mary Ann Williams

Related links (pdf downloads):

Joint ICTP-SISSA press release (Eng) (Ita)

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