Hammes-Schiffer Named Sterling Professor of Chemistry

Portrait of a woman in glasses, sweater, and necklace
October 25, 2021

Sharon Hammes-Schiffer, a leader in the field of theoretical chemistry who is recognized for her groundbreaking work on chemical and biological reactions, has been appointed the Sterling Professor of Chemistry, effective immediately.

The Sterling Professorship is awarded to a tenured faculty member considered one of the best in his or her field and is one of the university’s highest faculty honors.

Hammes-Schiffer is a member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) in the Department of Chemistry.

Hammes-Schiffer joined the Yale faculty in 2018 after holding named professorships at the University of Notre Dame, Pennsylvania State University, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research centers on the investigation of charge transfer reactions, dynamics, and quantum mechanical effects in chemical, biological, and interfacial processes. This work encompasses the development of analytical theories and computational methods, as well as applications to a wide range of experimentally relevant systems.

She has developed quantum mechanical and hybrid quantum-classical theories for proton-coupled electron transfer reactions, hydrogen tunneling in solution and enzymes, and fundamental electron-proton interactions and non-Born-Oppenheimer effects. Her calculations have assisted in the interpretation of experimental data and have provided predictions of rates and hydrogen/deuterium kinetic isotope effects. Her biological simulations have elucidated the roles of hydrogen tunneling, electrostatics, and protein motion in enzyme catalysis, as well as the impact of distal mutations. In conjunction with collaborators, her calculations of proton-coupled electron transfer in molecular and heterogeneous electrocatalysts are guiding the design of more effective catalysts for energy conversion processes relevant to solar energy devices.

Her work has wide ranging implications and applications: It has shaped approaches to protein engineering, drug design, and the development of catalysts for energy conversion devices, and it draws on interdisciplinary approaches that bridge chemistry, physics, biology, and computer science. Her research group is currently supported by nine different grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Instiutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. She is an author on more than 300 peer-reviewed publications, and she has given more than 450 invited talks. Her research group’s pioneering nuclear-electronic orbital quantum mechanical approach is being adopted by quantum chemists worldwide.

Hammes-Schiffer has received numerous national and international awards in her field. In 2020 and 2021 alone, she was awarded the Willard Gibbs Medal from the American Chemical Society, the American Chemical Society Award in Theoretical Chemistry, the Royal Society of Chemistry Bourke Award, and the Joseph O. Hirschefelder Prize in Theoretical Chemistry. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science. She is also a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Chemical Society, the American Physical Society, the Biophysical Society, and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. She has presented named lectures at Stanford, University of Oslo, University of California-Berkeley, Princeton, Johns Hopkins, McGill, and numerous other institutions.

Her contributions to the profession are substantial and have shaped research agendas in her field. She is currently Deputy Director of the DOE-funded Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis, Editor-in-Chief of Chemical Reviews, and a member of the Board of Reviewing Editors for Science. She has been Chair of the Physical Division of the American Chemical Society, deputy editor of the Journal of Physical Chemistry B, and a member of the Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee for the DOE. She has served on the editorial boards for top chemistry journals, including The Journal of the American Chemical Society, The Journal of Physical Chemistry, the Journal of Chemical Theory and Computation, and Accounts of Chemical Research.

An outstanding mentor and teacher, Hammes-Schiffer’s numerous graduate student and postdoctoral advisees have gone on to hold high-profile tenure-track positions and roles in industry. She is also active in outreach efforts and has participated in numerous panels on career development and women in STEM.

She received her B.A. from Princeton University and her Ph.D. from Stanford University.