2018 John D. and Edith M. Roberts Lecture

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On Thursday, October 18, 2018, Professors George Whitesides (Harvard) and David Schuster (NYU) presented the 2018 John D and Edith M Roberts Lecture at UCLA.

The event, which was held at the UCLA California NanoSystems Institute auditorium, began with a lecture by George Whitesides, Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor, Harvard University, followed by remarks about John D. Roberts and his group and a piano concert by David Schuster, Professor Emeritus, New York University. A photo gallery from the event can be viewed here and select photos can be viewed below.

The lecture honors alumnus John D. (“Jack”) Roberts (1918-2016) who was one of the most influential chemists of the last 75 years. Born on June 8, 1918, Roberts would have turned 100 this year. Roberts received his B.A. degree at UCLA 1941 and his Ph.D. in 1944 under the direction of William G. Young. He continued at UCLA as an Instructor from 1944-45. Following positions at UCLA, Harvard, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Roberts joined the organic chemistry faculty at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in 1952.

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At the reception following the Roberts Lecture (from left): Fred Caserio, Ken Houk, Chelsea Roberts, John Paul Roberts, Graham Roberts, David Schuster, Marjorie Caserio, George Whitesides, Don Roberts, Barbara Roberts, Allen Roberts, Shiera Brady.

Whitesides and Schuster were graduate students with Roberts at Caltech. Whitesides received his Caltech Ph.D. in 1964 and Schuster in 1960.

To learn more about Roberts’ life and accomplishments, read the special tribute to Roberts written by Ken Houk and alumna Dr. Fang Liu (Ph.D. ’14 Houk group) which was published in the February 14, 2018 issue of the Journal of Physical Organic Chemistry.

The Roberts Lecture is made possible by fund raising efforts spearheaded by Houk and Professor Marjorie Caserio, Chancellor Emerita, University of California, San Diego. Caserio was a postdoc in Roberts’ lab in the 50’s and in the 60’s she and Roberts co-wrote the popular textbook “Basic Principles of Organic Chemistry”.

In addition to supporting the lecture, funds from many former Roberts group members, the Roberts Family, UCLA faculty members, and the Jung matching funds helped to establish the new John D. and Edith M. Roberts Term Chair in Organic Chemistry for which we are currently fundraising.   

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Over 350 people attended the lecture held at the California NanoSystems Institute auditorium on the UCLA campus.

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(Left) Before his lecture, titled “Origins of Life”, George Whitesides (Harvard) paid tribute to his former Ph.D. advisor, John. D. Roberts whose image is projected on the screen behind him. (Right) Ken Houk, the driving force behind the establishment of the Roberts Lecture, presented Whitesides with an engraved crystal plaque after his lecture.

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Following Whiteside’s lecture, David Schuster, also a former Roberts graduate student, gave a lecture titled “J.D. Roberts and the Early Days of NMR”. 

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(Left) After his lecture, Schuster, an accomplished musician, performed a classical piano concert. (Right) Houk presented Schuster with an engraved crystal plaque after his concert.

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(Left) At the dinner following the event at the UCLA Faculty Center, Houk presented the Roberts family with an engraved glass award in appreciation of their support with the establishment of the John D. and Edith M. Roberts Term Chair in Organic Chemistry. (Right) Roberts’ sons, Allen, John Paul, and Don Roberts accepted the award. (Daughter Barbara Roberts was not able to attend the dinner.) 

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(Left) Roberts’ grandchildren Chelsea Roberts (a UCLA medical student) and Graham Roberts. (Right) Carlotta and David Schuster.

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(Left) Barbara Whitesides (left) enjoys a chat with Fred and Marjorie Caserio. (Right) Carolyn and Chuck Knobler (left) with Craig Merlic.
Photos by Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry.