Peter G. Wolynes

Rice University

Primary Section: 14, Chemistry
Secondary Section: 29, Biophysics and Computational Biology
Membership Type: Member (elected 1991)


Peter G. Wolynes is the D.R. Bullard-Welch Foundation Professor of Science at Rice University. He is a professor in the Departments of Chemistry, Physics and Astronomy, and Biochemistry and Cellular Biology. He is also a Senior Researcher at the NSF-sponsored Center for Theoretical Biological Physics at Rice University.

Peter Wolynes was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1953. He graduated with an AB from Indiana University in 1971 and received a PhD in Chemical Physics from Harvard University in 1976. He taught at Harvard University and in 1980 moved to the University of Illinois, eventually becoming the Center for Advanced Study Professor of Chemistry, Physics and Biophysics. In 2000 he moved to the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego, and in 2011 he relocated to his present positions at Rice University in Houston, Texas.

Wolynes’ work across the spectrum of theoretical chemistry and biochemistry has been recognized by the 1986 ACS Award in Pure Chemistry, the 2000 Peter Debye Award for Physical Chemistry of the ACS, the 2012 ACS Award in Theoretical Chemistry, the Fresenius Award, and the Joseph Hirschfelder Prize. For his work on the energy landscape theory of protein folding he received the 2004 Biological Physics Prize from the American Physical Society (now called the Max Delbrück Prize) and the 2008 Founders Award of the Biophysical Society. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the German Academy of Sciences "Leopoldina," and Foreign Member of the Royal Society of London. He has received honorary degrees from Indiana University and the University of Stockholm.

Research Interests

Peter Wolynes' interests in molecular science have ranged from the structure and dynamics of biomolecules and condensed matter systems to the quantum mechanics of small molecules. He works on developing theories of protein folding and function, including algorithms for structure prediction. Wolynes is also studying stochastic cell biology and the dynamics of the cytoskeleton. He continues to develop the theory of the glassy state and the glass transition of molecular liquids.

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