William Goddard Honored with 2020 UCLA Samueli Lifetime Contribution Award

Feb 20, 2020

By UCLA Samueli Newsroom

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The UCLA Samueli School of Engineering commemorates the best and brightest of the UCLA Samueli community every year. Alumnus William Goddard, who frequently collaborates with UCLA faculty members, will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award for his significant contributions to the fields of engineering, quantum mechanics, physical chemistry and chemical physics.

William A. Goddard III is the Charles and Mary Ferkel Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science and Applied Physics and director of the Materials and Process Simulation Center at the California Institute of Technology.

Goddard obtained his bachelor’s in engineering with highest honors from UCLA in 1960. His colleague, Yang Yang, a UCLA professor of materials science and engineering and bioengineering, said Goddard “considers the undergraduate education he received under Dean Llewellyn Michael Kraus Boelter at UCLA critical to his success. His undergraduate years provided him a broad education in all areas of engineering.”

At Caltech, working with Pol Duwez, a professor of materials science, Goddard developed a new methodology that later became known as Generalized Valence Bond theory, the first method of quantum mechanics able to suitably describe bond breaking and molecular reactions.

He joined the chemistry faculty at Caltech in 1964 and rose through the ranks to become a professor of theoretical chemistry. Starting in the 1970s, his research shifted to semiconductor surfaces and heterogeneous catalysis. Goddard obtained a joint appointment in applied physics and materials science in the Engineering and Applied Science division at Caltech.

Goddard’s more recent research has been focused on developing computational methods that are sufficiently accurate and can be used to predict best systems applicable for what is now known as materials genomics. He also has made numerous significant contributions in every area of physical chemistry and chemical physics.

“Each of Goddard’s academic achievements represents a key advance in its respective field,” said Yu Huang, a professor of materials science and engineering at UCLA. “He has deservedly been recognized nationally and internationally for his highly accomplished academic career and, furthermore, has kept in close touch with UCLA colleagues and maintained fruitful collaborations with numerous UCLA faculty members.”

Goddard has also been an educator and mentor to hundreds of young researchers, who themselves have contributed substantially to advancing theory and its applications in chemistry and materials science. His efforts in successfully preparing students to cross disciplines and use computing as a tool to solve problems of societal importance has touched all aspects of chemistry, from theory to application.

For his contributions, Goddard has been elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science. He has received numerous additional honors and awards, including being named fellow of the American Physical Society, the Feynman Prize for Nanotechnology Theory and various awards from the American Chemical Society.

Goddard obtained his bachelor’s degree in engineering from UCLA and his doctorate in engineering science, with a minor in physics, from Caltech.

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