The 2012 Solomon Lecturer is Professor Krzysztof (Kris) Matyjaszewski of Carnegie-Mellon University. An abstract of his lecture can be found here,and a recording is here.

Prof. Matyjaszewski received his PhD degree in 1976 at the Polish Academy of Sciences under Prof. S. Penczek.  Since 1985 he has been at Carnegie Mellon University where he is currently J. C. Warner University Professor of Natural Sciences and Director of the Center for Macromolecular Engineering. He is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Pittsburgh and at the Polish Academy of Sciences. His research interests include controlled/living radical polymerization, catalysis, environmental chemistry, and advanced materials for optoelectronic and biomedical applications.

Kris is the editor of Progress in Polymer Science and the Central European Journal of Chemistry. He has authored 14 books, 73 book chapters and more than 600 peer-reviewed scientific papers and his publications have been cited over 42,000 times. He is a co-inventor on 36 issued U.S. patented technologies, holds 107 international patents and has 26 active U.S. patent applications.  As one of the leading educators in the field of polymer chemistry, Kris has 14 current doctoral students and 5 postdoctoral fellows. He has mentored more than 200 undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students since joining Carnegie Mellon.

In recognition of his leadership in polymer chemistry Kris has received numerous awards for his work, including the 2011 Wolf Prize, 2009 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award. He has been honored by the American Chemical Society with their 2011 Hermann F. Mark Award, 2011 Applied Polymer Science Award, 2007 Hermann F. Mark Senior Scholar Award, 2004 Cooperative Research Award in Polymer Science & Engineering, 2002 Polymer Chemistry Award, and the 1995 Carl S. Marvel Creative Polymer Chemistry Award. He also received the 2011 Japanese Society Polymer Science Award and 2005 UK Macro Medal for outstanding achievements in polymer science, 1995 Humboldt Award for Senior U.S. Scientists and a 1989 Presidential Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation. In 2010, he was elected as Fellow of the American Chemical Society and Fellow of Polymer Chemistry Division, in 2006, he was elected a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and in 2001, and he was elected an ACS Polymeric Materials Science and Engineering Fellow.

Matyjaszewski’s work has been well recognized in his native country of Poland.  In 2004, he received the Annual Prize of the Foundation of Polish Science, referred to as the Polish Nobel Prize.  In 2005 he became a foreign member of the Polish Academy of Science, and in 2007, he received an honorary degree from Lodz Polytechnic in Poland. He has also received honorary degrees from the University of Ghent, Belgium, Russian Academy of Sciences, University of Athens, Greece and Polytechnic Institute in Toulouse, France.

The 2007 Solomon Lecturer was Professor Mitsuo Sawamoto of Kyoto University and an abstract of his Solomon Lectures may be found here.


Presentation of a memento crystal to Prof Mitsuo Sawamoto by Prof David Solomon at the Melbourne Solomon Lecture, 19th November 2007.In his research career, Mitsuo Sawamoto has made two major breakthroughs in the field of chain-growth polymerization where precision reaction control (living polymerization) has been considered inherently difficult: (A) Lewis acid-catalyzed living cationic polymerization in 1983 and (B) Transition metal-catalyzed living radical polymerization in 1993.


These two discoveries rejuvenated cationic and radical polymerizations, where fundamental studies were considered to have matured, triggering a fast increase in publications as well as active efforts in industry for potential commercialization. Before metal-catalyzed living radical polymerization, few organometallic chemists, as well as polymer chemists, considered employing transition metal complexes for catalysis in radical polymerization. Sawamoto's mechanistic studies have contributed critically to the establishment of a general principle of polymerization control, “Dormant–Active Species Equilibrium”, inspired a rapid proliferation of world-wide research activities.


Living cationic polymerization is a chain-growth polymerization mechanism initiated with acid compounds for a variety of electron-rich alkenes. Mechanistically, it is akin to electrophilic addition reactions in organic chemistry and is mediated by carbocationic intermediates, which are active but unstable and prone to undergo chain transfer reaction via beta-proton elimination. Because of this, it was believed that cationic living polymerization would be beyond our reach. Sawamoto’s living cationic polymerization employs protonic acid/Lewis acid (initiator/catalyst) initiating systems which suppress chain-transfer reactions in cationic polymerization. He has demonstrated that, by employing such designed combinations of initiator and catalyst, vinyl ethers, styrenics, and other electron-rich monomers can be polymerized into living polymers with controlled molecular weights and very narrow (uniform) molecular weight distributions. Historically, this discovery heralded a general principle for precision control of chain-growth polymerizations, namely, the dynamic equilibrium between dormant and active species, which turned out to be relevant to other living processes of different mechanisms, such as group-transfer and living radical polymerizations. Sawamoto’s finding has really rejuvenated the field of cationic polymerization, where fundamental research was once pessimistically considered almost over, primarily because of the difficulty in controlling chain-transfer reactions of carbocations.


Living radical polymerization is perhaps more important in industry and academia. Radical polymerization proceeds via carbon radical species, and the intermediates tend to undergo termination (bimolecular radical coupling and disproportionation), making it difficult to achieve living radical polymerization. Sawamoto solved this long-standing problem by employing halogen-capped dormant species and transition metal complexes as catalysts.A large variety of monomers (acrylates, methacrylates, styrenes, acrylamides, etc.) can now be polymerized in a controlled fashion to form polymers of controlled molecular weights and narrow distributions. The key to these findings was the use of transition metal complexes (Ru, Fe, Ni, etc.) as catalysts. Systematic search in Sawamoto’s and other groups then led to a large variety of metal catalysts and initiators, and helped generalization of the principle of dormant species for precision polymerization.


Living cationic and radical polymerizations have also opened new vistas in polymer synthesis with high precision. First, because of the fine reaction control, these processes lead to a variety of new polymers with controlled architectures and topology. Second, these polymerizations can be applied to a variety of functional monomers and in turn to give a new family of functional polymers carrying ester, carboxylic acid, hydroxyl, amine, sugar, perfluoroalkyl and other functionalities.

The previous Solomon Lecturers have been:

  • 2000 Prof David Solomon, University of Melbourne
  • 2001 Prof Julia Higgins DBE, Imperial College, UK
  • 2005 Prof Gerhard Wegner, Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research, Germany
  • 2006 Prof David Tirrell, California Institute of Technology
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