The 2023 Oesper Award

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Prof. Miguel Garcia-Garibay

Professor Miguel García-Garibay, Dean of the Division of Physical Sciences, is the recipient of the 2023 Oesper Award presented by the University of Cincinnati (UC) Department of Chemistry and the Cincinnati Section of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

This prestigious award recognizes “outstanding chemists for a lifetime of significant accomplishments in the field of chemistry with a long-lasting impact on the chemical sciences”. García-Garibay is the first UCLA faculty member to receive the Oesper Award.

García-Garibay was honored at the Oesper Symposium and Dinner in Cincinnati on October 20, 2023. The event served as a reunion with four former members of García-Garibay’s research group presenting research talks – Luis Campos (Ph.D. ’06 chemistry) now an associate professor at Columbia University; Braulio Rodriguez Molina (Postdoctoral Fellow ’11-13) now an assistant professor with tenure at the Institute of Chemistry, National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM); Marino Resendiz (Ph.D. ’08, organic chemistry) now an associate professor at the University of Colorado; and Jean-Luc Ayitou (UNCF-Merck Postdoctoral Fellow and University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow ‘13-16) now an assistant professor at the University of Illinois Chicago.

(Left) Before the award day (from left) – Profs. Ryan White (Chair, Department of Chemistry, UC), James Mack (Dean of Arts and Sciences, UC), Miguel García-Garibay, and Ken Houk. (Right) Profs. Braulio Rodriguez Molina, Miguel García-Garibay, Jean-Luc Ayitou , Luis Campos, and Ken Houk

Additionally, two experts in areas related to García-Garibay’s research, Anna Gudmunsdottir (University of Cincinnati) and Chris Bardeen (UC Riverside) also presented their research.

Ken Houk (UCLA) gave a talk titled “Computational Adventures with Miguel García-Garibay,” and the day concluded with García-Garibay’s presentation titled “Exploring the Frontiers of Chemical Dynamics with Molecular Nanocrystals: From Green Chemical Synthesis to Quantum Chains and Qubit Pairs.”

At the Oesper Dinner, Houk gave the after-dinner speech titled “Amphidynamic MGG!”.  Houk explained the title:

“Amphi means ‘on both sides’ in Greek, ‘Amphidynamic’ is a word that refers to materials that have properties both of crystals, that are relatively rigid and motionless – but also like liquids, with rapid motions of internal components.  Miguel invented this terminology that beautifully describes the materials that he is studying and developing for future applications. Miguel has those properties too:  he is an amphidynamic crystal, both quite fixed and stable, reliable, and dependable leader, he is a Dean!  But at the same time, he is in rapid dynamic motion in terms of scientific creativity, mental agility, and lively imagination – he is a hyperactive, highly dynamic, and creative scientist.”

In his talk, Houk also spoke about García-Garibay’s many accomplishments:

“Miguel has done solid state photochemistry and has shown how the crystalline lattice can steer reactions involving breaking and making bonds to give specific products and stereoisomers.  To develop this chemistry on a useful synthetic scale, he has shown how to make nanocrystals in suspension that can react with high conversion, whereas big crystals only do photochemistry on the surface, then block the radiation, stopping further reaction.  Miguel has also done matrix isolation and photochemistry, especially measuring hydrogen tunneling in HAT, which leads to very large KIEs.  He has also pioneered the synthesis of amphidynamic materials that he and I talked about today.  I would say that his biggest hits, what he is known for, are his photochemical syntheses in crystals and his synthesis and experimental probes of gears and machines, and from his talk, we known exciting things in qubits and amphidynamic materials.”

García-Garibay received his B.S. degree from the University of Michoacan in Mexico and his Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, Canada. He was a postdoctoral Fellow at Columbia University before joining the faculty in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCLA, where he rose through the Faculty ranks and is now a Distinguished Professor.  He is the current Dean of Physical Sciences and Senior Dean of the UCLA College. He has served in the editorial boards of the Journal of Organic Chemistry, Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry, Crystal Growth & Design, and was associate editor for the Journal of the American Chemical Society from 2009 to 2017. 

García-Garibay is known for his work in solid-state organic chemistry, photochemistry, reactive intermediates, and crystalline molecular machines. He has authored over 250 articles and delivered over 350 lectures worldwide.  Among other honors, he is a fellow of the AAAS, received of the 2013 Inter-American Photochemical Society, and was Awarded the 2015 ACS Cope Scholar Award.  In 2019 he was elected Fellow of the American Chemical Society, he became a member of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2020, a member of the Mexican Academy of Sciences in 2021, and this year he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.