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Killam Lectures

Public Lecture

Quantum Theory of Electrons in Matter: Notes, Chords, and Symphonies


Live stream will be available at 7:30 p.m.

Presented by Dr. Axel D. Becke

Canada Council Killam Prize Winner in Natural Sciences 2016 & Professor Emeritus, Dalhousie University

Tuesday, November 22, 2016 - 7:30 p.m.
Marion McCain Building, Ondaatje Hall

All matter in our everyday lives -- everything we touch and see, the stuff of which we ourselves are made -- consists of electrons moving in the fields of atomic nuclei. The theory governing the motions of electrons is called quantum theory. In this lecture, the fundamentals of quantum theory will be explained in simple terms, drawing heavily on musical analogies. It gets complicated, however, when very large numbers of electrons are involved, as is the case in the matter around us. A branch of quantum theory called "density-functional" theory can handle problems involving many - even countless - electrons, and is the foundation of most electronic structure computations today. Dr. Becke's contributions to the theory, including personal reminiscences of a career in science, will be discussed. 

Dr. Axel D. Becke - Biography

Axel D. Becke is professor emeritus in the department of chemistry. His seminal work on the Density-Functional Theory of the electronic structure of atoms, molecules, and materials has transformed computational science. Density-Functional Theory is a fundamental and powerful framework for understanding the motions of electrons in all terrestrial matter. Its applications are endless: in chemistry, biology, physics, materials science, surface science, nanotechnology, etc... Becke's methods are ubiquitous in computational software world wide for simulating structures, properties, energies, and reactions of matter, and reactions of matter with light. Becke is one of the most cited scientists in the world. Recently two of his papers were ranked by the journal Nature as the 8th and 25th most cited papers of all time, in all the sciences [Nature 514, 550 (2014) or www.nature.com/top100], and both of these papers are single authored. Citations to his work total almost 120,000 to date. In addition to his 2016 Killam Prize in Natural Sciences, Becke is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (2000) and the Royal Society of London (2006), a medalist of the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science (1991) and the World Association of Theoretical and Computational Chemists (2000), recipient of the Noranda Lecture Award of the Canadian Society for Chemistry (1994), a Canada Council Killam Research Fellowship (2005-2007), the John Polanyi Award of the Canadian Society for Chemistry (2009), the Theoretical Chemistry Award of the American Chemical Society (2014), the NSERC Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering (2015), and the 2015 Medal of the Chemical Institute of Canada. Becke held the Killam Chair in Computational Science at Dalhousie from 2006 until his retirement from teaching in 2015. He is now engaged in full time research.