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Paul Weiss to deliver distinguished Eyring Lecture Series at ASU


Portrait of Paul Weiss University of California, Los Angeles Presidential Chair.

Paul Weiss holds a University of California, Los Angeles Presidential Chair and is a distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry, bioengineering, and materials science and engineering.

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March 11, 2022

Paul Weiss is a leading American nanoscientist whose goal is to research the ultimate limits of miniaturization to develop a new chemical understanding of the physical and biological world. 

Weiss, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences with many international awards, will be the featured School of Molecular Sciences’ Eyring Lecture Series speaker March 17 and 18 at Arizona State University's Tempe campus. 

The general lecture on March 17, titled “Nanotechnology Approaches to Biology and Medicine," will be presented at 6 p.m. in the Marston Theater in ISTB4, and will be available to view via livestream at https://video.ibm.com/asutv.

Weiss holds a University of California, Los Angeles, Presidential Chair and is a distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry, bioengineering, and materials science and engineering. He leads an interdisciplinary research group focused on understanding and controlling chemistry, physics, biology and materials at the smallest scales. 

“Paul is proving himself, and his research group, to be masters at manipulating and probing matter at the finest space and time scales, using a combination of photonic and electronic techniques,” said William Petuskey, director of Advanced Materials Initiatives at ASU’s Knowledge Enterprise and a professor in ASU’s School of Molecular Sciences.

“His innovations of molecular self-assembly combined with the advanced fabrication of electronic nanodevices is simultaneously creating scientific opportunities for probing the mechanisms of inter-molecular communication of crucial importance for quantum information sciences, as well as creating technological innovations of nanodevice arrays for probing complex electromagnetic phenomena in the brain. His enthusiasm and collaborative generosity make him a force of science for the benefit of society.”

Weiss has developed tools to see, feel and manipulate matter on the nanoscale, simultaneously measuring spectra, structure and function of systems under high vacuum and in solution. He pioneered applying hierarchical strategies for controlling placement of single molecules on the Angstrom scale and arrays of them on the centimeter scale. He is among the few experimentalists who demonstrated function of single molecules as switches and motors, determining and controlling their mechanisms of function and addressing ultimate limits of miniaturization. 

In work ranging from quantum chemistry to mechanical engineering — including experiment, theory and simulation — Weiss has explored how the functions of single molecules are coupled by building from the bottom up. He has demonstrated that atoms and molecules communicate on surfaces through substrate electrons over distances significantly greater than chemical bond lengths, with important consequences regarding electronic and optical properties. 

“In and out of science, I have always loved stories,” Weiss said. “I find that the best way to communicate science to the public is to connect with our stories; connecting this way works for our students and for other scientists, too. This strategy was reinforced with the first communicating science workshop that we held at CNSI (the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA), which I direct with Alan Alda and the Center for Communicating Science from Stony Brook University (Dean Howie Schneider and his team). What makes us do what we do and why we care is much more interesting than a particular number that we pulled out of our experiments.

“I think that this is also what we can learn from our friends in the entertainment industry. What is the story here? Where can we capture the interest of the public? It is a two-way street, because we have stories to tell — not just from the lab.”

The Eyring lectures are part of an interdisciplinary distinguished lecture series dedicated to stimulating discussion by renowned scientists who are at the cutting edge of their respective fields. Each series consists of a leadoff presentation to help communicate the excitement and the challenge of science to the university and community. Past lecturers have included Nobel laureates Ahmed Zewail, Jean-Marie Lehn, Harry Gray, Richard Smalley, Yuan T. Lee, Richard Schrock and, most recently awarded, John Goodenough.

The technical lecture, “Atomically Precise Chemical, Physical, Electronic, and Spin Contacts," will take place at 2:30 p.m. on March 18 in the Biodesign auditorium. It will also be available via Zoom at https://asu.zoom.us/i/87081218152.

Weiss is the founding editor-in-chief of ACS Nano, one of the top scientific journals in nanoscience and nanotechnology. Prior to that, he was senior editor of the journal IEEE Electron Device Letters. In 2019, he won the IEEE Pioneer Award in Nanotechnology. From 2009–14, Weiss held the Fred Kavli Chair in NanoSystems Sciences and was the director of the UCLA California NanoSystems Institute, of which he is a member. 

The Eyring Lecture Series is named in honor of the late Leroy Eyring, an ASU Regents Professor of chemistry and former department chair, whose instructional and research accomplishments and professional leadership at ASU helped to bring the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry into international prominence. The Eyring Materials Center and the Navrotsky Eyring Center for Materials of the Universe at ASU are named in his honor.

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