Valeria Molinero is a physical chemist by passion and training, recognized for her innovative modeling of water and elucidation of the mechanisms of formation of ice and clathrate hydrates. Molinero grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina. After completing a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Buenos Aires in 1999, she moved to the United States to pursue further training at Caltech. Molinero started her independent career in 2006 at the University of Utah, where she is now the Jack and Peg Simons Endowed Professor of Theoretical Chemistry, Distinguished Professor, and director of the Henry Eyring Center for Theoretical Chemistry. Her research has been recognized with several awards, including the 2019 Cozzarelli Prize of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2021, and to the National Academy of Sciences in 2022.

Research Interests

Valeria Molinero's fascination with change and the emergence of complex behavior from simple systems guides her interest on understanding the structure, dynamics and phase transformations of materials. To this end, she uses molecular simulations and theory, developing models and methods that have been widely adopted by the community. She is particularly interested in the behavior of water and other substances, such as silicon and silica that share with water the tetrahedral topology of their interactions. She has made pioneering contributions to understanding the properties of supercooled water and the mechanisms of formation of ice and clathrate hydrates, revealing the role of stacking disorder and amorphous phases in the pathway of nucleation of these crystals, and the role of organic and biological molecules and nanoconfinement on the outcome and rate of crystallization. She has extensively studied the phase behavior of water in confinement, uncovering new phases - including the first water quasicrystal, and new phenomena - including the oscillatory behavior that characterizes the end of the first order transition in small systems, and extending the study of confined solutions to complex systems such as ion exchange polymer membranes. Her interest in tetrahedral substances has led her to the investigation of the mechanisms of synthesis of silica zeolites, nanoporous crystals with extensive polymorphism that are formed through a series of phase transitions driven by chemical reactions. The coupling of chemical reactions and phase transitions is also at the core of her research on electrochemically-generated nanobubbles and other potential-driven processes at interfaces.

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Primary Section

Section 33: Applied Physical Sciences

Secondary Section

Section 14: Chemistry