Chemist Joel Bowman receives international Humboldt Research Award

Emory Report | May 17, 2018

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Theoretical and computational chemist Joel Bowman will use his Humboldt Research Award to work at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Germany, starting in spring 2019.

Joel Bowman, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Chemistry, has received the prestigious international Alexander von Humboldt Research Award in recognition of his lifetime achievements in research as well as his high potential for new discoveries.

This award, given by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany, honors academics “whose fundamental discoveries, new theories or insights have had a significant impact on their own discipline and who are expected to continue producing cutting-edge achievements in the future.” 

A theoretical and computational chemist, Bowman has been cited as “one of the founding fathers of theoretical reaction dynamics” by the leading Journal of Physical Chemistry. Bowman’s research utilizes theoretical and computational techniques to explore chemical reaction and vibrational dynamics of molecules, molecular clusters, and molecular solids and fluids.

The Humboldt Research Award also seeks to foster international scientific collaboration. Recipients are invited to carry out research projects of their own choice in cooperation with colleagues in Germany. 

Starting in spring 2019, Bowman will use his award to work at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in collaboration with professor Alec Wodtke of the University of Gottingham, as well as several other theoretical chemists and experimentalists across Germany. 

Through these collaborations, Bowman will be working to apply the famous Schrodinger equation of quantum mechanics to several important areas in physical chemistry. 

That research will involve visiting several labs in Germany that are working on chemical reaction dynamics, including the basic chemical physics and vibrational spectral signatures of water and protons in water and hydrate clathrates (water-based solids that trap various gasses).

“One area of this research that is of great environmental concern is the methane hydrate clathrates that exist deep in the ocean,” Bowman says. “If the methane from these were to be released into the atmosphere the effect on global warming would be extreme.” 

The Humboldt award is the most recent of several honors that Bowman has received, including the Herschbach Prize for Theoretical Chemistry in 2013. In addition, he was elected as a Fellow to both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Physical Society and elected to the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Sciences.