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Regents Professor Truhlar awarded prestigious Plyler Prize

Regents Professor Donald Truhlar has been awarded the prestigious 2016 Earle K. Plyler Prize for Molecular Spectroscopy and Dynamics. He is being honored for his outstanding work and accomplishments in dynamics, which span a broad range of theoretical and computational chemical physics. He received the award at the American Physical Society Prizes and Awards Ceremony, which was conducted in Baltimore on March 14, 2016.

Truhlar has developed a method called Variational transition state theory (VTST) that opened new doors in the fields of theoretical enzyme kinetics and theoretical gas-phase kinetics. He also developed original methods for quantal and semiclassical simulation of electronically nonadiabatic photochemical processes, which have helped the understanding of fundamental chemical reactions.

Truhlar has long been at the forefront of developing methods to calculate reactive potential energy surfaces and using them for interesting applications, from molecules through enzyme catalysis. He was an early pioneer in discovering and interpreting transition-state resonances (compound states temporarily trapped in the transition state region of the potential energy surface), and he was the first to report the fully converged quantum mechanical spectrum of a transition state and its interpretation. This work has been very influential in the interpretation of subsequent experiments.

The Earle K. Plyler Prize for Molecular Spectroscopy and Dynamics prize has been awarded annually by the American Physical Society since 1976. It is named after physicist Earle Keith Plyler (1897–1976) who pioneered infrared molecular spectroscopy. The prize includes $10,000, a travel allocation, and a certificate of his contributions leading to the award. Truhlar is also invited to contribute a perspective article to the Journal of Chemical Physics, which sponsors the prize.