Dartmouth Chemist Worked With Nobel Laureates

“This puts our field on the map,” says Associate Professor Ivan Aprahamian.

A Dartmouth professor is hailing the recipients of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, one of whom was his post-doctoral mentor.

Three scientists, Fraser Stoddart, Bernard Feringa, and Jean-Pierre Sauvage, were today awarded the prize by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for their groundbreaking work on molecular machines.

Associate Professor of Chemistry Ivan Aprahamian, who for three years was a postdoc working with Stoddart at UCLA, says the prize will bring recognition to the field of molecular machines—which is also Aprahamian’s work.

“This puts our field on the map and it shows that fundamental science and chemistry is as important as applied chemistry,” says Aprahamian. “The prize is a well-deserved recognition. I know the three laureates very well and I am happy that they are the recipients of the prize.” 

Aprahamian was a postdoc with Stoddart from 2005 to 2008, and this past July, Stoddart and Feringa went to the Colorado conference Aprahamian organized—the Telluride Workshop on Molecular Switches, Rotors, and Motors. Aprahamian works on developing new molecular switches that can be developed into molecular machines.

“The field is still in its infancy and there is much to be done. The fact that the Nobel Committee recognized the importance of the field, which has so far delivered breakthroughs in fundamental chemistry, is a huge development.”

Aprahamian’s research group investigates the motion of molecules at very small scales—the size of a nanometer, which is one billionth of a meter—and how to manipulate them.

“We are exploring how to manipulate motion on the molecular level in order to utilize it in a lot of interesting applications,” he says. For example, these tiny molecular machines could be used in the delivery of drugs into the human body or in molecular memory devices.