Recognition for systematic catalyst design

October 29, 2021
The Max Planck Society and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation recognize the achievements of Prof. Dr. Anastassia Alexandrova from the University of California, Los Angeles.  

Prof. Alexandrova is being recognized for her work on rational catalyst development and the understanding of functional materials. She will receive 60,000 euros in connection with the medal. She will use the prize money to start a cooperation with FHI's Department of Interface Science and the Humboldt University of Berlin.

Anastassia Alexandrova, who conducts research at the University of California Los Angeles, will receive the Max Planck-Humboldt Medal for her work in theoretical chemistry, in particular her studies on the reactivity of nanosized catalysts. A highlight of her studies is the development of methods that simulate how a catalyst behaves during a chemical reaction, depending on its structures, and how the reaction conditions, such as temperature, pressure and concentration of the starting reactants, influence the states of the catalyst and its interaction with the environment. In this way, she demonstrated that the catalyst surface restructures during a reaction and that it is precisely structural details that are rarely present in the pre-catalyst that are crucial for the course of the reaction. In addition, Anastassia Alexandrova has developed dynamic models of how the type of chemical bonding influences the mechanical, electronical and thermodynamical properties of materials. She also made significant contributions to understanding and modeling intramolecular electric fields in enzymes and their role in enzymatic catalysis.

Prof. Beatriz Roldán Cuenya, director of the Department of Interface Science, is delighted that Prof. Alexandrova has been selected to receive the Max Planck-Humboldt Medal: “Anastassia Alexandrova is an excellent scientist with outstanding future potential. She has developed methods that simulate how a pre-catalyst is transformed into a real active catalyst under reaction conditions, including describing what are the most favourable catalyst structures and surface compositions under different reaction conditions. Our department will significantly benefit from Alexandrova’s expertise in theoretical chemistry and the new collaboration that she will also stablish with PD Dr. Denis Uzvyat at the HU Berlin.”

In addition, a Max Planck-Humboldt Medal will be awarded to Sumit Gulwani from the Microsoft Corporation in Redmond and the Max Planck-Humboldt Research Award 2021 goes to Pablo Jarillo-Herrero, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Germany’s Federal Research Minister Anja Karliczek says: “The success of research in Germany and throughout the world is based on international networking. Only if scientists from all over the world join forces to develop solutions together, we will be able to tackle the major challenges of our time, such as climate change or COVID-19.” The Max Planck Humboldt Research Awards make a major contribution to this. Due to coronavirus precautions, this year’s awards will be presented during a ceremony in Berlin on November 3, 2022 together with the 2022 awards.

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