Originally created 05/11/00

Scholar earns honor medals



ATHENS, Ga. -- His scientific collaborations with Central Europeans have earned him some important research findings and at least one star doctoral student for his University of Georgia team, not to mention a pretty good sense of daily life in the old Soviet bloc.

Henry F. Schaefer's transatlantic research in quantum chemistry has now led to two important medals of honor, one of which went to U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in 1999.

Dr. Schaefer, director the university's Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry, will receive the Gold Medal of Comenius University in a ceremony Monday in Bratislava, Slovakia, and the Gold Medal of the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics of Comenius University on Tuesday.

During his trip to Europe, Dr. Schaefer will deliver the first Ede Kapuy Lecture in Budapest at Hungary's leading university, the Eotvos Lorand University. The lecture is named for the late father of theoretical chemistry in Hungary and a former research collaborator of Dr. Schaefer.

Dr. Schaefer, a five-time Nobel Prize nominee who came to the University of Georgia in 1987 from the University of California-Berkeley, credited his team in Athens for the honors.

"Anytime any scientist receives any kind of recognition, it's due to his graduate students and his research associates," Dr. Schaefer said before leaving Athens on Tuesday for Budapest. "There are very few lone rangers in the business."

The Gold Medal of Comenius University, awarded by Slovakia's oldest continuously running university, is given to "persons who have made an outstanding contribution to science, to Comenius University and to the country of Slovakia." Mrs. Albright was awarded the medal last year for her diplomatic work among former Soviet satellites.

The Slovak Republic, adjacent to Hungary, was formerly part of Czechoslovakia.

Professor Ivan Hubac, head of the chemical physics department at Comenius, said in a prepared statement that Dr. Schaefer was selected for the prize this year because of his research at Berkeley and at the University of Georgia, along with "his great contributions to quantum molecular physics and his support of the Slovak school of chemical physics."

Dr. Schaefer lectured last year in Bratislava and Zilinia, Slovakia, and during that trip persuaded one of the nation's top young scientific minds, Lubos Horny, to apply for admission to his doctoral program at the University of Georgia.

Slovakia has invested greatly in science and engineering and has earned a reputation for producing scientists interested in pure theoretical chemistry, Dr. Schaefer said.

"He's a brilliant young man," Dr. Schaefer said of Mr. Horny. "This is a real coup for us."

Dr. Schaefer made one of his first marks in theoretical and computational chemistry by successfully challenging a group of experimental chemists on the structure of the molecule methylene.

Using computers and mathematical models, the Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry develops computational methods for understanding the movements of electrons in molecules and applies the methods to problems of broad chemical interest.

The center has researched the properties of ozone holes in the Earth's atmosphere, worked with experimental chemists in combustion chemistry and developed new high-accuracy computational techniques.