Nobel-Prize Laureate Prof. Sir Fraser Stoddart visits the Department

In October 2016, former University of Sheffield chemistry department lecturer Prof. Sir Fraser Stoddart was awarded the highest honour in chemistry. He, along with Ben Feringa and Jean-Pierre Sauvage, jointly received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for “the design and synthesis of molecular machines.”

As part of British Science Week and the Sheffield Festival of Science and Engineering, Prof. Stoddart was invited back to Sheffield to present a Krebs Lecture entitled “The Rise of Mechanical Bond: From Molecules to Machines”. But, there was also time for Sir Fraser to return to the department where he worked for 19 years.

Poster Session

Before the Krebs lecture, Sir Fraser was invited back to the department where he lectured between 1971 and 1990 where a special poster session was arranged to allow current postgraduate researchers and selected fourth year students to present their research to him. Photographs from the event can be viewed below.

Zoe and Sir Fraser at the poster session Amelia and Sir Fraser at the poster session Beth and Sir Fraser at the psoter session

Alex and Sir Fraser at the poster session Hannah and Sir Fraser at the poster session John and Sir Fraser at the poster session














At the end of the event, Sir Fraser participated in a Question and Answer session with the researchers detailing his field of research, his experiences as an academic and his memories of Sheffield. Further photographs of the event can be found on the departments Facebook page.

Krebs Lecture

The Key-note event was the Krebs lecture, included as part of British Science week and Sheffield festival of Science and Engineering. Sir Fraser was invited to share some details on his journey from undergraduate to Nobel Prize laureate in the Krebs lecture.

Sir Fraser provided an entertaining and informative mix of the chemistry he has pioneered and the people and researchers who have helped him throughout the years. His talk started with a snapshot of the major advances of research he has performed and highlighted some examples.

One of the interesting systems that Sir Fraser spoke about was the Borromean rings. These are three interlocking rings linked through a Brunnian link, which means if one ring is removed the remaining two rings are unlinked. The synthesis of a molecular Borromean ring was a challenging endeavour, which spanned multiple decades involves many different researchers.

During the lecture, Sir Fraser spoke about the research performed at the department here in Sheffield into what are known as rotaxanes. These are structures where a wheel is trapped around an axle with no covalent bonds between them. The fundamentals of this research led to the identification of the molecular shuttle where the wheel moves between two sites on the axle.

Sir Fraser elaborated on this research providing examples of how the rotaxanes developed later in his career could be used as molecular memory for computers or could be applied to drug delivery.

His talk was not just limited to his academic success. Sir Fraser also made note of the many people who have supported him throughout his academic career including both family and students. But, the lecture included just a few snapshots from a lifetime of research. The true message of the lecture was on persistence and the enjoyment of research and stressing the importance of fundamental research.

Additional Information

For further information of the Nobel Prize award see our press release  here and visit the Nobel Prize announcement  here.

Written By:
Joe Clarke

With thanks to all contributors and Joshua Swift for photography.