Honorary degree acceptance speech - Odile Eisenstein: Modelling in Chemistry - Reality or Fiction?

Honorary degree acceptance speech by Odile Eisenstein. 

Odile Eisenstein

The Department of Chemistry congratulates prof II Odile Eisenstein on the award of an Honorary Doctorate from the Universitiy of Oslo.

Odile Eisenstein is the past director of the group of theory (CTMM) of Institut Charles Gerhardt Montpellier, France, where she set up the Laboratory of Theoretical Chemistry (CTMM).

She is Professor II at The Centre for Theoretical and Computational Chemistry (CTCC)  at UIO.

Homepage of Odile Eisenstein



Modelling in Chemistry – Reality or Fiction?

Chemistry is an experimental science and will remain so forever. However, it is built on concepts that enable a rational approach to its development. Thus, essential to chemistry is a need for “understanding” chemical properties and chemical events. For this, chemists have at their disposal an increasing larger number of experimental tools, usually derived from physical methods but there were and still are many aspects that can only be solved theoretically. Theoretical chemistry initially developed with extremely difficult challenges to meet since the computer power was highly limited and the methodologies to represent the electronic properties of chemical systems were still in their infancy. In fact, the only option was to apply highly simplified methods to highly simplified molecules. Focusing on chemical reactivity, the results were staggering and the publications of three short communications in the Journal of American Chemical Society by Woodward and Hoffmann in 1965 on pericyclic organic reactions and symmetry rules revolutionized the way chemists think.

The field of theoretical chemistry is far from mature and still grows tremendously fast. Parallel developments in quantum-chemical methods and in computer technologies allow computational chemistry (the applied part of theoretical chemistry) to play a key role as a full partner to experimental chemistry. In our research, we have usually selected appropriate technologies to solve chemical questions that could not be understood otherwise. In this talk, we will discuss structures and behavior (including dynamic behavior) of strongly electron-deficient systems (typically very hard to study experimentally), determining the energy landscape for chemical transformations, sometimes detecting essential invisible partners, analyzing unusual bonding systems, and uncovering unexpected effects such as those of relativity. Many years of research will be covered, illustrating how computational chemistry can grasp the essential factors that govern chemistry even with moderately accurate methods, bringing essential understanding to the real world of chemistry even at a modest computational cost.

The almost perfect diastereoselection in the hydrogen-free hydrogenation of artemisinic acid by diazene (“diimide”, obtained from hydrazine and air on the way to artemisinin, a powerful drug against malaria) is shown to be due to intramolecular weak interactions involving CH bonds and the π density from the double bond of an acrylate. J. Org. Chem. 2014, 79, 5939

About Odile Eisenstein

Odile Eisenstein was born in 1949 and has a PhD in chemistry from Université Paris-Sud in 1977. Following stays abroad, she moved to Université Mont­pellier 2 in 1996, where she set up the Laboratory of Theoretical Chemistry.

Eisenstein’s field of research is computational chemistry for the under­standing of chemical transformations and catalysis. Through her research, typically carried out in collaboration with experimental groups, she has con­tributed to make chemistry more selective and efficient and thereby cleaner and more sustainable. She has published about 400 articles.

Odile Eisenstein has received a number of awards for her research, including the CNRS Silver medal, the Royal Society of Chemistry Frankland Award and the American Chemical Society Organometallic Award,  where she is the first woman elected  among the 33 members of the Chemistry Division.

Published Aug. 18, 2014 2:43 PM - Last modified Dec. 3, 2014 10:45 AM