Professor Sharon Hammes-Schiffer
Winner: 2020 Bourke Award
For the development and applications of analytical theories and computational methods for describing proton-coupled electron-transfer reactions and enzyme catalysis.
Celebrate Professor Sharon Hammes-Schiffer
Professor Sharon Hammes-Schiffer develops theories and computer simulation methods to describe how electrons and protons move during chemical reactions. These theories have guided the design of catalysts for solar energy storage. Her theories and simulations have also explained how enzymes work and how they can be mutated to work more effectively. Some of the enzymes she has studied are responsible for DNA synthesis, repair, and replication and therefore are related to cancer prevention and treatment.Read full biography
Sharon Hammes-Schiffer received her BA in Chemistry from Princeton University in 1988 and her PhD in Chemistry from Stanford University in 1993, followed by two years at AT&T Bell Laboratories. She was the Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor at the University of Notre Dame from 1995–2000 and then became the Eberly Professor of Biotechnology at The Pennsylvania State University until 2012, when she became the Swanlund Professor of Chemistry at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Since 2018, she has been the John Gamble Kirkwood Professor of Chemistry at Yale University.
Her research centres on the investigation of charge transfer reactions, proton-coupled electron transfer, nonadiabatic dynamics, and quantum mechanical effects in chemical, biological, and interfacial processes. Her work encompasses the development of analytical theories and computational methods, as well as applications to experimentally relevant systems.
She is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, American Chemical Society, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Biophysical Society. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science. She was the Deputy Editor of The Journal of Physical Chemistry B and is currently the Editor-in-Chief of Chemical Reviews. She is on the Board of Reviewing Editors for Science and has served as Chair of the Physical Division and the Theoretical Subdivision of the American Chemical Society. She has over 275 publications, is co-author of a textbook entitled Physical Chemistry for the Biological Sciences, and has given more than 410 invited lectures, including 24 named lectureships.
Who or what has inspired you?
Originally, I was inspired by my father, who was a biochemist, and then I also became inspired by my PhD and postdoc advisors, Hans Andersen and John Tully, respectively.
What motivates you?
I am motivated by the desire to understand fundamental principles of complex processes at a conceptual as well as a mathematical level.
What has been your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge has been balancing the different aspects of my life, including my passion for science, traveling to conferences, and my family.
What advice would you give to a young person considering a career in chemistry?
I would encourage him or her to think outside the box and reach beyond the traditional ways of thinking.
Why do you think interdisciplinary research and collaboration is important in science?
Interdisciplinary research and collaboration is important in science because the sharing of ideas and expertise is essential for understanding complex problems. It is particularly important for theorists because collaborations with experimentalists motivate the development of new theories and computational methods, and our theories can help interpret and guide their experiments.