James L. Skinner

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Primary Section: 14, Chemistry
Membership Type:
Member (elected 2012)


James Skinner attended the University of California at Santa Cruz, where he was a double major in physics and chemistry. He then entered Harvard University, where he studied with Professor Peter Wolynes, received an NSF graduate fellowship, and graduated with his PhD in chemical physics in 1979. His postdoctoral work at Stanford was under the direction of Hans Andersen, and was supported an NSF postdoctoral fellowship. In 1981 Skinner joined the faculty of Columbia University, becoming Professor of Chemistry in 1986. In 1990 he moved to the University of Wisconsin, as the Joseph O. Hirschfelder Professor of Chemistry and Director of the Theoretical Chemistry Institute. In 2017 Skinner moved to the Institute for Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago, where he is the Crown Family Professor. Skinner has been the recipient of a number of awards for both scholarship and teaching, including the UW Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award (2003), Fellowship in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2006), American Chemical Society Irving J. Langmuir Award in Chemical Physics (2012), Member of the National Academy of Sciences (2012), and UW Hilldale Award in the Physical Sciences (2105). He has coauthored over 200 scientific publications, has given over 300 invited lectures, and has served as advisor to 32 graduate students and 14 postdocs. Skinner's research interests are in the theoretical chemistry of condensed phases.

Research Interests

Skinner's research interests include: theoretical chemistry of condensed phases; nonequilibrium statistical mechanics; chemical reactions; polymer dynamics; exciton and electron transport; dephasing and relaxation processes; linear and nonlinear spectroscopy; protein dynamics; the glass transition.   Specific research problems currently under study include a theoretical description of ultrafast (on the order of 10-14 seconds) hydrogen-bonding dynamics in liquid water.   Such dynamics play a critical role in important chemical reactions in aqueous solution, and essentially all biochemical reactions.   He is also generally interested in the dynamics and spectroscopy of liquid water, water clusters, ice, and confined and biological water.   He is also developing theoretical methods for vibrational spectroscopy of proteins.

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