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Physcial Sciences Division
Staff Awards & Honors

November 2017

First Northwest Theoretical Chemistry Conference Is a Hit!

Conference graphic
The conference was open to faculty and students at all universities and colleges in the Northwest with an interest in theoretical and computational chemistry. Photo courtesy of Scott Butner

Congratulations to Sotiris Xantheas, Greg Schenter, Diane Stephens, Cindy Irwin, and Blake Wright at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory on organizing the first Northwest Theoretical Chemistry Conference (NWTCC). Theoretical chemistry offers new approaches to accurately and efficiently describe complex reactions, from fundamental properties of the periodic table to the behavior of nuclear waste. The team designed the event to offer early career theorists and students opportunities to present talks in a nurturing environment that developed and advanced collaborations.

The event included a poster session where 21 early career scientists (mainly graduate students and postdoctoral fellows) presented their work. Poster session chair Thom Dunning presented four awards focused on the research quality, poster design, and discussion. Meredith Moore and Alessio Petrone from the University of Washington received the two awards sponsored by the Journal of Chemical Physics; Samantha  Johnson, a postdoctoral fellow at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Joseph Radler at the University of Washington received the two awards sponsored by the Journal of Physical Chemistry.

The poster session was followed by six sessions focusing on different aspects to theoretical chemistry and chemical physics. Each session, chaired by a senior researcher, featured work performed by junior investigators from the University of Washington, Washington State University, Western Washington University, Montana State University and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

The organizers ensured that the ~50 participants had plenty of time to discuss their research, ask questions, and learn about their colleagues' research at the other institutions. Both Schenter and Xantheas reminisce about the time when they -- as early career scientists -- were provided with similar opportunities by Thom Dunning and Bruce Garrett, who were their group leaders at that time. Schenter and Xantheas both aimed to pass this opportunity on to the younger scientists in the Northwest region.

The conference was held October 26 to October 28 at the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science user facility located on the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory campus in Richland, Washington. Given the success of the first NWTCC, it was decided to have the next meeting in Pullman, Washington, on Washington State University's campus, with Professors Aurora Clark and Kirk Peterson being the conference co-chairs.

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