SMU Hosts Prestigious Austin Symposium of World’s Top Chemists

SMU said the conference attracted more than 122 chemists from 14 countries. SMU recently invested $11.5 million to boost its high-performance computing system, an important element in making SMU an ideal place to host the conference.

Some of the top chemists from around the world are convening in Dallas today through Monday at Southern Methodist University for the 28th Austin Symposium on Molecular Structure and Dynamics at Dallas.

SMU said the conference attracted more than 122 chemists from 14 countries. The conference theme of the symposium is “Spectroscopy Meets Theory.”

“The idea is to have a smaller crowd than what you would find at a major conference, where there are 10,000 people, so people can just mingle and talk,” Elfi Kraka, organizer of the conference, said in a statement.

Kraka is chair of the Chemistry Department at SMU and head of the university’s Computational and Theoretical Chemistry (CATCO) Group.

“Too often, there is an instrument at one university that could help another chemist’s research, but they don’t know about it. Or there’s a computer program that could answer a question that an experimentalist is desperately trying to figure out, but they’re not aware of that,” Kraka said.

The Austin symposia occur every two or three years and they bring together top chemistry experts who specialize in different areas – structural, theoretical, spectroscopy, reaction dynamics and computational chemistry.

By providing participants the opportunity to discuss their work with each other, the conference’s goal is to potentially spark new ideas for research and build interdisciplinary collaborations.

That happened, for example, in 1984 when structural chemist Robert Curl and spectroscopic chemist Sir Harold Kroto met at the conference and learned they had similar interests.

SMU said the pair, along with Richard Smalley, eventually won a Nobel Prize for discovering a previously unknown pure carbon molecule they called buckminsterfullerene and other fullerenes, which led to new research in nanotechnology, material science, and other fields.

SMU said that it recently invested $11.5 million to boost its high-performance computing system, making SMU an ideal place to host the conference.

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