Professor Lyndon Emsley (EPFL) delivers the inaugural John S. Waugh Lectureship in Physical Chemistry

Liz McGrath, Senior Individual Giving Officer
September 28, 2017

Pictured (left to right)  Alice Waugh, Sue Waugh, Prof. Mei Hong, Prof. Lyndon Emsley (EPFL), Fred Waugh, Prof. Robert Griffin

On Tuesday, September 26, Professor Lyndon Emsley of the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), visited the department to deliver the inaugural "John S. Waugh Lecture in Physical Chemistry." Robert Griffin, the Arthur Amos Noyes Professor of Chemistry hosted the event, which was very well attended by students, former colleagues, and John’s widow, Sue, and his two children, Alice, and Fred. 

Institute Professor John S. Waugh, who had been a professor in chemistry at MIT since 1955 passed away at the age of 85 in 2014.  Waugh is remembered as the father of high-resolution NMR in solids. In his many outstanding publications, he introduced multiple pulse NMR, average Hamiltonian theory, cross-polarization, and a host of other fundamental concepts that today are widely used in studies of an enormous number of chemical, physical and biological problems. 

In his introductory remarks, and for the benefit of younger members of the audience, Professor Griffin spoke about Waugh's extraordinary academic achievements, and also entertained everyone with anecdotes of the many pranks John Waugh liked to play on the scientific community. He also thanked the Waugh family, and Waugh colleagues, for their support of the newly established lectureship.

In the 60s, Waugh came up with a technique to overcome the limitation of NMR structural studies of liquid samples by determining that NMR could be done on solids by applying a very special sequence of sharp, intense radiofrequency pulses. He developed the technique along with his student Lee Huber and postdoc Ulrich Haeberlen, and the technique was dubbed WAHUHA in honor of its discoverers.

Professor Emsley, who described himself as a Waugh groupie, humbly expressed his delight in being chosen as the inaugural speaker of the prestigious lectureship. His talk titled, "NMR Crystallography: 50 years after WAHUHA" was extremely well received, and contained slides depicting where seminal work by Waugh has been foundational to his own research, which centers on the development of new NMR spectroscopy experiments to determine the atomic-level structure and dynamics of complex materials and molecular systems, to solve a range of problems across disciplines. 

The Department of Chemistry, having raised the amount of $100,000 needed to endow the lectureship, is now faced with the challenge of ensuring the lectureship fund reaches a level where it can comfortably provide honoraria, travel and accommodations for a speaker on an annual basis, as well as cover the promotional costs and activities associated with a named lectureship. To this end, it aims to raise a further $50,000 to add to the fund's principal. 

Checks made out to the “John S. Waugh Lectureship in Physical Chemistry” can be sent directly to Liz McGrath, Senior Individual Giving Officer, MIT Department of Chemistry, Bldg 18-388, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139. Gifts online may be made by clicking here.

All gifts are greatly appreciated!