Sep 28, 2021
Professor Anastassia Alexandrova
Professor Anastassia Alexandrova has been selected to receive the prestigious Max Planck-Humboldt Medal, which honors extraordinary scientists outside Germany with outstanding future potential.
 
The medal is awarded jointly by Germany’s Max-Planck-Gesellschaft and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.
 
From UCLA Newsroom (by Stuart Wolpert):
 
Chemist Anastassia Alexandrova receives Max Planck-Humboldt Medal
 
Anastassia Alexandrova (Reed Hutchinson/UCLA)
 
Anastassia Alexandrova, UCLA professor and vice chair of chemistry and biochemistry, has been selected to receive the prestigious Max Planck-Humboldt Medal, which honors extraordinary scientists outside Germany with outstanding future potential.
 
The medal, awarded jointly by Germany’s Max-Planck-Gesellschaft and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, will be presented to Alexandrova in a ceremony in Berlin in November 2022 (delayed one year because of COVID).
 
Alexandrova and her research team design new materials and develop new algorithms, guided by insights into electronic structure and chemical bonding, using a wide range of methods, including artificial intelligence and machine learning. She and her research team design new catalysts, building up from detailed understanding of their electronic structure, to the shapes, stability and catalytic properties.
 
She is being honored for her research in theoretical chemistry, in particular her studies on the catalysis of chemical reactions and materials science. Alexandrova has developed methods that simulate how a catalyst behaves during a chemical reaction, which structures mediate between the reaction partners in detail and how the reaction conditions — such as temperature, pressure and concentration of the starting materials — influence the states of the catalyst and this interaction states the press release announcing the medal. She “demonstrated that the catalyst surface restructures during a reaction and that it is precisely structural details that are rarely present in the catalyst that are crucial for the course of the reaction,” the release states. “She has also developed dynamic models of how the type of chemical bonding influences the mechanical, electronical and thermodynamical properties of materials. She also made significant contributions to understanding and modeling intramolecular electric fields in enzymes and their role in enzymatic catalysis.”
 
She is interested in both pure chemistry — how, for example, an enzyme that contains a metal atom catalyzes a chemical reaction at the atomic level — and applied chemistry.
 
“This award particularly recognizes our recently developed statistical ensemble theory for dynamic heterogeneous catalytic interfaces, whereby the never-stopping dynamics of the catalyst under the reaction conditions is an essential part of how the catalyst is working,” said Alexandrova, a member of UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute.
 
“I am deeply honored to receive the Max Planck-Humboldt Medal,” said Alexandrova, a member of UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute. “My laboratory is a warm home for students of many different backgrounds, from chemistry and biochemistry to physics, material science and engineering, computer science and applied mathematics. We collaborate with many experimental laboratories in catalysis, surface science, spectroscopy and molecular biology.”
 
Alexandrova is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the American Chemical Society’s 2016 Rising Star Award, which recognizes exceptional women chemists on a national level; a J. William Fulbright U.S. Scholar grant, with which she conducted research in the chemistry laboratory of the École Normale Supérieure in Lyon, France, on computational catalysis; a 2020 Early Career Award in theoretical chemistry by the Physical Chemistry Division of the American Chemical Society; a 2019 UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award and 2018 UCLA Undergraduate Research Faculty Mentor Award.
 
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Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu