2019 Daniel Kivelson Lecture

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Leading biophysicist and chemist Professor Ken Dill (Stony Brook University) gave the 2019 Daniel Kivelson Lecture on May 20, 2019.

Professor Ken A. Dill is best known for his work on folding pathways of proteins.He is the Director of the Louis and Beatrice Laufer Center for Physical and Quantitative Biology at Stony Brook University, where he is the State University of New York Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Physics. He was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 2008 and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2014. In 1998-99 he served as President of the Biophysical Society, and from 2003 to 2010 as Founder and Co-Director of the Bridging the Sciences Coalition dedicated to supporting deep innovation at the interface of the Life and Physical Sciences. His research work has been recognized by many international awards, most recently the 2019 Delbruck Biophysics Prize of the American Physical Society and the 2019 Sackler Prize in Biological Physics.  

A standing-room-only crowd attended Dill’s lecture entitled “Maximum Caliber, a Second-Law-like Variational Principle for Dynamics & Networks” in which he discussed the principle of “Maximum Caliber,” which for dynamical processes plays the role that the principle of Maximum Entropy plays in thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. In particular, he showed how it applies to a broad variety of systems out of equilibrium, such as signal cascades involving protein networks, and the dynamics of social networks. The lecture was followed by a reception at the Winstein Commons. 

The Kivelson lecture celebrates and honors the life and career of UCLA physical chemistry professor Dr. Daniel Kivelson who passed away in 2003. Kivelson’s widow, world-renowned UCLA space physicist and planetary scientist Professor Margaret G. Kivelson, attended the lecture and reception. 

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(Left) Professor William Gelbart introduced Professor Ken Dill at the standing-room only lecture. (Right) Dill during his lecture.

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Dill’s lecture was titled “Maximum Caliber, a Second-Law-like Variational Principle for Dynamics & Networks”.

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At the reception following the lecture – Professors William Gelbart, David Eisenberg, Ken Dill, Margaret Kivelson, Raphael Levine, and Juli Feigon.

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Dill visits with Chemistry & Biochemistry graduate student Renato Aguilera (Gimzewski group).

About Daniel Kivelson

DkivelsonBW 1Daniel Kivelson was born in New York City in 1929. He began undergraduate studies in chemistry and physics at Harvard in 1945 and continued there until 1953 when he received a doctorate in chemical physics under the supervision of E. Bright Wilson. After two years as an instructor at MIT, Kivelson came to UCLA in 1955 as an instructor. His thesis research had been concerned with the use of microwave spectroscopy as a tool for determining molecular structure and at UCLA he established a program in electron spin resonance spectroscopy. This early research had the hallmarks of Kivelson approach to science – a combination of expertise in experimentation with fundamental theoretical analysis. After 40 years, his treatment of electron spin relaxation in fluids continues to be one of the most highly cited works in the field. Kivelson made important contributions to the theory of molecular relaxation in fluids throughout his career and carried out complementary experimental studies by light scattering, in which he was an early leader. During his last ten years Kivelson undertook experimental and theoretical research on supercooled liquids and glasses and he brought major new insights into this important and challenging area. He pursued this research vigorously until his death.

Kivelson was a brilliant and charismatic teacher. He was a mentor to many graduate students and post-doctoral fellows and he took particular pleasure in introducing undergraduates to research. Never completely happy with the textbooks that were available for his courses, he wrote extensive class notes, which he revised nearly every quarter. He continued to teach undergraduates each year after his retirement in 2000. Kivelson received the UCLA Harvey L. Eby “Art of Teaching Memorial Award” in 1967 and was the recipient of the 1987 College of Letters and Science Faculty Award. In 2001 he received a Senior Scientist Mentor award from the Dreyfus Foundation in recognition of his commitment to undergraduate research.

Kivelson’s record of service was also exceptional. He chaired many departmental committees and held the positions of both undergraduate and graduate advisor. From 1975 to 1978 he served as department chair. When there were thorny campus issues to be addressed, Kivelson was likely to be asked to deal with them. During the Vietnam War he chaired a College Committee to Study ROTC; he was a member of a Special Senate Committee on Faculty Ethics and he chaired or was a member of committees to address the problem of faculty housing, review academic programs, and recommend several deans, librarians and vice-chancellors. He chaired the UCLA Division of the Academic Senate in 1978-79.

It is not surprising that Kivelson was the recipient of many awards and distinctions for his scholarly work. These include Guggenheim, Sloan and Fulbright Fellowships, the American Chemical Society California Section Award, and the Herbert Newby McCoy Award. He was a fellow of the American Physical Society and was awarded its Irving Langmuir Prize in Chemical Physics in 1999. He presented the Lorentz lecture at the University of Leiden and the Willard Lectures at the University of Wisconsin.

Kivelson’s passions extended beyond science. He collected Turkoman weavings, wrote about them, and lent pieces to museums. He loved good food and could speak with authority about the merits of restaurants in Los Angeles or Paris. He traveled widely and to out-of-the-way locales but had a special fondness for London and Paris. He was knowledgeable about current affairs and was in the best sense a liberal, imbued with a respect for social justice and democracy.

Kivelson set an example that has been a source of inspiration to many. His ambition was not to win prizes and attract attention (although he did), but to do beautiful science, to enjoy doing it with friends, and to instruct new generations of scientists.  

The Kivelson Lecture and the UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry Kivelson Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowships were established so that Daniel Kivelson’s legacy will live on and help educate young scientists.  If you are interested in contributing towards the Kivelson Lecture or Kivelson Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship, please contact Penny Jennings, 310-825-9809, penny@chem.ucla.edu.  

Event photos by Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu.