Nobel Prize laureate Stoddart on campus

Nobel Prize laureate Fraser Stoddart (chemistry, 2016) will be on campus to speak about his work. Host Han Zuilhof wants to organise an event around the occasion.
Roelof Kleis


It is not every day that we may receive Nobel Prize laureates. In WUR’s case, that does not even happen once a decade. This makes it even more special that Zuilhof was able to get the lauded chemist Stoddart to visit WUR. As a matter of fact, Zuilhof can refer to the Nobel Prize laureate as a direct colleague of sorts: both are guest professors at the Tianjin University in China.


In China, the two form the Supramolecular Chemistry Group together with two local researchers. But the primary reason for the visit is the conference organised by the University of Groningen in honour of their own Nobel Prize laureate Ben Feringa that will take place two weeks from now. The two laureates Feringa shares the prize with, Stoddart and Sauvage, will also be present. When it became apparent that Stoddart wanted to visit several other universities as well, Zuilhof jumped the opportunity.

The Supra Molecular Chemistry Group, with Zuilhof (left) and Stoddart (right) The Supra Molecular Chemistry Group, with Zuilhof (left) and Stoddart (right)

The visit is planned for Friday. A visit that Zuilhof wants students to take advantage of as much as possible. ‘I wanted to organise something that impacts students. How often do you get the opportunity to speak with a Nobel Prize laureate?’ This direct contact will at least be reserved for five students of Molecular Life Sciences: they will be having lunch with Stoddart.


The lucky five have been selected via the Molecular Life Sciences study association Alchimica. They had a contest with a simple question: ‘Why would you want to have lunch with a Nobel Prize laureate?’ One person from each year was subsequently selected for the lunch. But others will also have a chance to see Stoddart. After lunch, he will give a lecture in the large hall of Orion, between 13:30 and 14:30.

Stoddart is a giant in our field. I asked the lecturers: do the students and me a favour and free that part of the schedule.

Han Zuilhof

To emphasise the importance of the visit, Zuilhof asked lecturers of Molecular Life Sciences to skip their courses in that timeslot. ‘Stoddart is a giant in our field. I asked the lecturers: do the students and me a favour and free that part of the schedule. And I’m happy to say this is happening wherever possible.’ To increase the contribution of the students as much as possible, Zuilhof will give them the chance to ask the first questions after the lecture.

Examples of mechanical bonds of molecules.

Examples of mechanical bonds of molecules.

The title of Stoddart’s lecture is ‘How molecules can WURC for you?! The rise and promise of the mechanical bond in chemistry and beyond.’ Stoddart will speak of his work on the designs of structures in which molecules are not chemically bonded, but instead ‘physically’. The molecules basically are threaded into each other. ‘This resembles the way the five Olympic Rings are interlocked.’

Molecular machine

Among Stoddart’s designs are the chemical routes to create such constructs. For a more expansive explanation, visit the website where Zuilhof explains this for laymen. With his work, Stoddart laid the foundation for the first molecular machine created by Feringa. Besides spending time with students, Stoddart will also speak with the staff of the chair groups of Organic and Physical Chemistry, and with individual PhD candidates.

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