Prof. Josef Michl awarded with Neuron Award for Contribution to Science

On Thursday 24th November 2016, Professor Josef Michl was awarded with the prestigious Neuron Award for Contribution to Science. The prize was awarded for the 7th time by the Neuron Fund for Support of Science to outstanding representatives of Czech science active abroad or at home who have reached outstanding achievements in their field and can serve as role models and inspiration to others.

Josef Michl (*1939 in Prague), who leads research teams both at University of Colorado Boulder (USA) and Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry (IOCB Prague) is one of the most cited Czech scientists. His team has created a chemical molecular construction kit. He has authored hundreds of scientific papers, several books and patents as well.

Professor Josef Michl is that rare personality, who amazes you with his incredible knowledge not only in chemistry, but in other fields too,” says a colleague of him and former director of IOCB Prague, Dr. Zdeněk Havlas. “His mastery of mathematics or physics is absolutely professional. He will always astonish you with profound knowledge and deep elaborateness of every detail. His phenomenal memory is certainly instrumental in this. But it is not just about knowledge reproducing: his way of thinking is really creative. He has always thought through the problem which should be solved, and even how it should be solved. He is never discouraged by the complexity of the problem. This is nicely reflected in his personal saying: We leave simple problems to the others – we choose the difficult ones.”

Josef Michl received multiple awards during his successful scientific career, but he values the Neuron Award as one of the most important: “I appreciate the Neuron Award more than others, because it is generally known that nobody is a prophet in his native village, and this makes a recognition from one's birthplace especially valuable.”

One of his current projects with his team at IOCB Prague is development of new materials for more effective and cheaper solar panels. But he sees a number of other scientific challenges in front of him.

I would like to find assembly conditions and structures suitable for the preparation of artificial two-dimensional surfaces based on molecular rotors and endowed with predictable properties. This might be very useful in electronics, but it is immensely difficult. To my knowledge, it has never been reported or even attempted. I would also like to formulate and verify simple rules for structural guidance for optimal singlet fission materials, which would be useful for improving the efficiency of solar cells; this is a project done jointly with Dr. Havlas. Finally, I would like to gain an understanding of the mechanism of direct alkylation of gold surfaces with organometallics that has been puzzling me for some time. Such alkylation could be useful in molecular electronics. In the remaining time, I would not mind developing the world's strongest neutral oxidants and study highly oxidized states of matter,” plans Josef Michl for the future.

We congratulate our esteemed colleague and wish him sound health and fulfillment of his scientific dreams.

Josef Michl (*1939 in Prague) graduated in chemistry at Faculty of Science, Charles University and continued with doctoral studies in the group of quantum physicist Rudolf Zahradník at the Institute of Physical Chemistry. Afterwards he worked at universities in Houston and Austin. In 1968, following his short stay back home, he left for summer school of quantum chemistry in Norway and did not return back after the Warsaw Pact occupation of Czechoslovakia in August 1968. He worked first as a research assistant at university in Denmark and then moved to USA and joined University of Utah in Salt Lake City and later Texas University in Austin. In 1991 he relocated to University of Colorado Boulder, where he has led his team till now. In 1986 he was elected member of US National Academy of Sciences, whose chemical section consists of 160 most significant American scientists in this field. Two years later he became a member of International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science which he presides today. Since 1995 he is a member of The Learned Society of the Czech Republic. In 1999 he was elected fellow of American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has authored over 600 scientific papers, several books and patents.

Neuron Fund for Support of Science: Press Release (in Czech only)