Nobel Laureate Prof. Robert Grubbs at Technion

Prof. Robert Grubbs lectured at the Schulich Faculty of Chemistry as part of the Apeloig Lectures series and added his signature to the Chemistry Wall of Fame at the Faculty

Prof. Grubbs and Prof. Apeloig

The Technion Faculty of Chemistry hosted Prof. Robert Grubbs of California Institute of Technology (Caltech). As part of the Apeloig Lectures series, Prof. Grubbs, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2005, lectured to students and faculty members about his research.

The Apeloig Lectures series was founded by the Friends of the Technion in the United States and Canada as a tribute to Prof. Yitzhak Apeloig at the end of his tenure as Technion President in 2009. Prof. Grubbs is the third lecturer in the series, and the two previous lecturers (Roald Hoffman and Jean-Marie Lehn) were also Nobel laureates. Prof. Grubbs met with faculty members and students and dined with 10 outstanding Ph.D. students at the Faculty, who were excited to meet and talk to one of the world’s leading scientists.

Prof. Grubbs won the Nobel Prize for his achievements in the study of the metathesis reaction – a reaction of two organic compounds with double bonds (olefins) which switch their substituents with the help of a catalyst . His unique contribution was the discovery and development of “Grubbs catalysts” – ruthenium-based catalysts that enable the reaction to be easily performed and controlled so that only desired the products are obtained.  

“The metathesis reaction is a great example of the importance of curiosity-driven basic research,” says Prof. Apeloig. “The initial interest in the reaction stemmed from the desire to understand the mechanism in which it takes place, and this understanding has made the reaction highly useful in many reactions in industry, worth billions of dollars. Today, we find compounds synthesized by the metathesis reaction in the medicine cabinet, fuel tanks, innovative plastics, tires, road surfaces and more. In fact, nothing limits the use of this reaction except the imagination.”

In his lecture at the Technion, Prof. Grubbs focused on innovations in the development of new catalysts and on new uses for the metathesis reaction to synthesize innovative polymers and photonic crystals. He added his signature to the Chemistry Wall of Fame at the Faculty, which bears the signatures of Nobel laureates in chemistry and other important chemists who visited the Technion over the years.