American Philosophical Society
Member History

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1. Mathematical and Physical Sciences[X]
102. Chemistry and Chemical Biochemistry[X]
1Name:  Dr. Peter Guy Wolynes
 Institution:  Rice University
 Year Elected:  2006
 Class:  1. Mathematical and Physical Sciences
 Subdivision:  102. Chemistry and Chemical Biochemistry
 Residency:  Resident
 Living? :   Living
 Birth Date:  1953
Peter G. Wolynes was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1953. He completed his undergraduate studies at Indiana University, receiving an A.B. degree in 1971. He then took up the study of statistical mechanics at Harvard University, where he received his Ph.D. in chemical physics in 1976. After a brief postdoctoral study with John Deutch at MIT, Dr. Wolynes returned to Harvard as an assistant professor in 1976. During the next four years at Harvard, Dr. Wolynes worked on the dynamical theory of electrolyte solutions, as well as on the then-nascent theoretical study of molecular dynamics of proteins. His early work on the theory of chemical reaction rates in condensed phases paved the way for the explosion of theoretical developments in this area throughout the 1980s. In 1980 Dr. Wolynes moved to the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where he progressed to be the Eiszner Professor of Chemistry and a Center for Advanced Study Professor of Chemistry, Physics and Biophysics. During the years he spent at Illinois, Dr. Wolynes worked on a wide range of theoretical problems in chemical physics, including the theory of the glass transition and the development of new techniques for studying quantum dynamics in condensed phases. He developed, in 1981, the quantum mechanical version of Kramers' celebrated 1940 theory of chemical reaction rates in solution. In addition, Dr. Wolynes provided a new picture of how energy flows quantum mechanically in moderate-sized molecules. Dr. Wolynes' interest in applying statistical mechanics to biology grew while he was at Illinois. He introduced energy landscape ideas to the field of protein folding, providing a statistical mechanical framework to understand how a one-dimensional sequence of amino acids folds to its native structure on a biologically relevant time-scale. These ideas have led to what has been termed the "New View" of protein folding kinetics. Energy landscapes have also proved useful in developing algorithms to predict protein structure from sequence. Dr. Wolynes' scientific contributions have been acknowledged in many ways. He received the ACS Award in Pure Chemistry in 1986, the Fresenius Award in 1988, the Peter Debye Award for Physical Chemistry in 2000 and the Biological Physics Prize of the American Physical Society in 2004. Among other external appointments, he was the Hinshelwood lecturer at Oxford in 1997 and Fogarty Scholar-in-Residence at the National Institutes of Health starting in 1994. He was elected in 1991 to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and in 2003 was elected a Fellow of the Biophysical Society. In 2000 Dr. Wolynes moved to University of California, San Diego, where he held the Francis Crick Chair in the Physical Sciences. In addition to continuing his work on many body chemical physics and protein folding he is now studying stochastic aspects of cell biology. In 2011, Dr. Wolynes moved to Rice University in Texas where he is the D.R. Bullard-Welch Foundation Professor of Science.
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