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John C. Tully, Yale University, received the 2020 NAS Award in Chemical Sciences.

One of his generation’s top theoretical chemists, Tully developed pioneering theories of the dynamics of molecules which have inspired scientists around the world.

Over his more than 50-year career, Tully’s work has aimed to improve our understanding of dynamical processes at the molecular level. These include energy transfer and chemical reaction in the gas phase, at surfaces, in condensed-phases, and in biological environments. To accomplish this Tully and his research group have developed novel theoretical and computational tools and methods for their application to solve challenging chemical problems.

Tully is best known for his work on “surface hopping,” a technique used to model the mechanisms by which electrons “relax” or transition from one state to another. His Fewest Switches Surface Hopping algorithm has become the standard method used worldwide to model energy transfer. 

Tully’s research, through his own contributions and those of his students and collaborators, has had an enormous influence not just in chemistry but also in fields such as biology. 

The NAS Award in Chemical Sciences is presented annually to honor innovative research in the chemical sciences that contributes to a better understanding of the natural sciences and to the benefit of humanity. The NAS Award in Chemical Sciences was established in 1978 and supported by Occidental Petroleum Corporation from 1978 to 1996. The Merck Company Foundation assumed sponsorship in 1999. The award is presented with a medal and a $15,000 prize.


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