May 8, 2019
Prof. Francois Diederich
UCLA postdoc alum and former faculty member Professor François Diederich (ETH Zurich) returned to UCLA on April 18 to give the 2019 Orville L Chapman Lecture.
 
Diederich was a postdoctoral scholar at UCLA with Professor Orville Chapman, for whom the lecture is named, from 1979 to 1981. After conducting research at the Max-Planck-Institute in Germany, Diederich returned to UCLA in 1985 to join the chemistry & biochemistry faculty as a professor of organic chemistry. In 1992, he left UCLA to take his current position as a professor of organic chemistry at ETH Zürich. He has returned to UCLA several times since then to give lectures and to collaborate with chemistry & biochemistry faculty. Diederich’s wife, Georgina Diederich, joined him for this visit.
 
Select photos from the event can be viewed below and an online photo gallery can be viewed here.
 
At the reception prior to the lecture - Professors Craig Merlic, Francois Diederich, and Ken Houk.
 
Prior to the lecture, faculty and students visited with Diederich at a reception in Young Hall Café Commons. The lecture, held in the CS 24 lecture hall, began with remarks about Chapman’s life and research by Professor Craig Merlic, who spearheads the Chapman Lecture series. During his introduction of Diederich, Professor Ken Houk showed two different renditions – a line drawing and a space-filling model - of the molecule that Diederich made in his Ph.D. work at Heidelberg – a molecule named Kekulene!  He also showed a photo of a stainless steel model of BuckminsterFullerene, C60, that Diederich and his former UCLA graduate student Yves Rubin studied (Rubin is now a UCLA professor of organic chemistry). The model was made by a machinist at the Upjohn Company and presented to Diederich who gave it to Houk, who was then the Chair of the department, when he departed for Zurich. 
 
Diederich's former graduate student at ETH Zurich Dr. Lorenz Urner (left) and Dr. Xiaoguang Liu (right) view a poster about Chapman’s life and research at the reception before the lecture. Both are postdoctoral researchers in Professor Michael Jung's group.
 
In Diederich's lecture, titled “Molecular Recognition in Chemical and Biological Systems: Chemical Models and Biostructural Investigations”, he presented his multi-disciplinary approach to quantify weak intermolecular interactions in chemical and biochemical systems and he discussed the ways his group at ETH Zurich explores the energetics of the replacement of conserved water molecules in protein co-crystal structures by ligand parts. 
 
Following the lecture, Chapman's widow Susan Chapman joined the Diederichs and faculty for dinner.
 
Professor Craig Merlic, who spearheads the Chapman Lecture series, spoke about Chapman's life and research.
 
In his introduction of Diederich, Professor Ken Houk showed two different renditions – a line drawing and a space-filling model - of the molecule that Diederich made in his Ph.D. work at Heidelberg and a photo of a stainless steel model of BuckminsterFullerene, C60, that Diederich gave Houk when he left UCLA to join the faculty at ETH Zurich.
 
Diedrich's lecture in the Young Hall CS24 lecture hall. After his lecture, Merlic presented Diedrich with a crystal award. 
 
(Left) Diederich with Professor Michael Jung and Jung group postdoctoral researcher Dr. Lorenz Urner who was a graduate student with Diederich at ETH Zurich. (Right) Diederich with his former UCLA graduate student Professor Yves Rubin, now a UCLA organic chemistry faculty member.
 
(Left) Chemistry & Biochemistry faculty with Francois and Georgine Diederich - Professors Craig Merlic, Yves Rubin, and Ohyun Kwon.  (Right) Garg group members graduate student Timothy Boit (left) and postdoctoral researcher Dr. Evan Darzi (right) pose for a photo with Diedrich after his lecture.
 
About Professor Francois Diederich – A native of Luxembourg, Diederich received his diploma in 1977 and his doctoral degree in 1979 from the University of Heidelberg in Germany. Following postdoctoral studies at UCLA with Professor Orville Chapman from 1979 to 1981, Diederich became a research associate at the Max-Planck-Institute for medical research in Heidelberg. After his habilitation in 1985, he returned to UCLA and joined the chemistry & biochemistry faculty as a professor of organic chemistry. He left UCLA in 1992 to join the faculty at ETH Zürich as a professor of organic chemistry.  His research group there focusses on molecular recognition in chemistry and biology, modern medicinal chemistry, supramolecular nanosystems, and carbon-rich materials. Their scientific approach involves a blend of advanced synthetic and physical-organic methodology and international collaborations. To learn more about Diederich’s research, visit his group’s website.
 
About the Orville L. Chapman Lectures – The Chapman Lecture was established in 2013 to commemorate the work in physical organic chemistry by Professor Orville Chapman (1932-2004) (pictured left) who was an internationally recognized and distinguished professor of organic chemistry at UCLA from 1974 until his death in 2004 at the age of 72. Chapman was a brilliant pioneer of organic photochemistry who brought the best of information technology to academia. The series is supported by Chapman’s widow Susan Chapman and Chapman’s friends.  Read more about Chapman in his biographical memoirs, written by his UCLA colleagues Dr. Arlene Russell and Professor Kendall Houk.
 
 
 
 
Article by Penny Jennings and Julio Gonzales. Photos by Penny Jennings, penny@chem.ucla.edu.