David A Dixon

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David A. Dixon. (1949 - ). American chemist, chemical engineer, and computational simulist.


Short biography: Dr. David A. Dixon, Robert Ramsay Chair, The University of Alabama

Dr. David A. Dixon was born in Houston Texas on Dec. 3, 1949. He received a B.S. in chemistry from Caltech in 1971 where he did undergraduate research in x-ray crystallography and ion cyclotron resonance spectroscopy. He received a PhD from Harvard University in physical chemistry in 1976 where he worked on molecular orbital theory with Prof. William Lipscomb (Nobel Prize, Chemistry, 1976) and crossed molecular beam chemistry with Prof. Dudley Herschbach (Nobel Prize, Chemistry, 1986). He is currently the Robert Ramsay Chair the Department of Chemistry at The University of Alabama where he has been since Jan. 1, 2004. Prior to moving to UA, he was Associate Director for Theory, Modeling, & Simulation (TM&S) in the William R. Wiley Environmental Molecular Science Laboratory at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory from 1995 to 2002 and a Battelle Fellow from 2002-2003. He was the leader of the Molecular Sciences Computing Facility in the EMSL as well as a computational chemistry group and a computational biology group. The MSCF included the Molecular Sciences Software Suite (MS3), which consists of three components: (1) the Extensible Computational Chemistry Environment (Ecce), (2) the Northwest Computational Chemistry Software (NWChem), and (3) Parallel Software Development Tools (ParSoft). MS3 won an R&D 100 award in 1999 and a Federal Laboratory Consortium Technology Transfer Award in 2000. Dr. Dixon was responsible for the overall management and direction of the software development effort. He also had overall management of the Molecular Theory group with a focus on theory development and applications in chemical physics and physical chemistry, the Computational Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Biology group, a group focused on chemical, environmental, and process applications, and an applied mathematics group. He was a leader of PNNL’s initiative in Computational Science and Engineering with a focus on molecular simulations and the reactive transport of chemically reacting flows in complex geometries for predicting atmospheric chemical processes and for the transport of radionuclides in the Hanford vadose zone and in ground water. He led the Virtual Biology Facility (VBF) effort as part of the Laboratory’s Biomolecular Systems Initiative. The VBF focused on developing a holistic systems approach using computational models of biological systems from the molecular to protein-protein/DNA interactions, to cell with an emphasis on modeling cell signaling pathways, to tissues, to organs (the virtual lung) to the organism. His research at PNNL involved using computational methods to solve environmental problems facing the Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear weapons production complex. He spent more than 12 years at DuPont’s Central Research at the Experimental Station in Wilmington, Delaware with a specific focus on chlorofluorocarbon replacements (eliminating atmospheric ozone depleting substances), fluoropolymers, catalysis, and main group chemistry in support of the Company’s different businesses, including using computational chemistry to design the Corpus Christe HFC-134a plant. Dr. Dixon’s computational work was critical to getting the replacements of the CFCs to market as soon as possible, helping to save and remediate the stratospheric ozone layer. His efforts at DuPont strongly influenced the way that computational chemistry is used today in the chemical industry. Due in large part to his influence, most if not all of the major chemical companies in the world today are predicting molecular properties from high level computational chemistry to support the manufacturing of commercial products, a true paradigm shift. He was on the chemistry faculty at the University of Minnesota from 1977-1983 before he moved to DuPont, where his research was in computational chemistry, crossed molecular beams studies of reaction dynamics, and ion cyclotron resonance spectroscopy.

He has received a number of awards including a Junior Fellowship at Harvard University (1975–1977), A. P. Sloan and Dreyfus Fellowships in 1977 and 1978, respectively, the 1989 Leo Hendrik Baekeland Award of the American Chemical Society (given every 2 years to an American chemist under 40 years of age in recognition of accomplishments in chemistry), a 2000 Federal Laboratory Consortium Technology Transfer Award, the 2003 American Chemical Society Award for Creative Work in Fluorine Chemistry, a 2010 DOE Hydrogen Program R&D Award for Outstanding Contributions to Hydrogen Storage Technologies, the 2011 Burnum Award from The University of Alabama (outstanding faculty in terms of research and teaching), the first recipient of the University of Alabama SEC Faculty Achievement Award in 2012, and the ACS Division of Fluorine Chemistry Distinguished Service Award in 2015. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Physical Society, the American Chemical Society, and the European Academy of Sciences.

The overall goal of the work in his research group is to develop computational chemistry approaches on advanced computer systems and then apply them to address a range of important national problems with a focus on energy and the environment. Important research areas include heterogeneous and homogeneous catalysis for a wide range of processes including biomass conversion to fuels and chemical intermediates; geochemistry especially for carbon dioxide sequestration in the subsurface, biochemistry of amino acids and peptides for anion-based proteomics; heavy element chemistry including relativistic effects for environmental cleanup of nuclear production sites and advanced nuclear fuel cycles and for understanding condensation reactions in solution; chemical hydrogen storage materials from synthesis to regeneration of spent fuel; nanostructures and nanostructured materials; and fluorine and main group chemistry. Dr. Dixon has published 665+ papers on a wide range of topics, has 3 patents on nonlinear optical materials, and given 355+ presentations. He is considered a world leader in the application of computational electronic structure methods to chemical problems. His current Hirsch index is 74 with >19,000 citations to his work. His research efforts are funded by the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Defense. He has been active on many Department of Energy workshops developing Priority Research Directions for Basic Energy Sciences and Advanced Scientific Computing and Research in the Office of Science. He has been active in the American Chemical Society Division of Fluorine Chemistry serving on the Executive Committee, as Program Chair, as Chair of the Division, and as Chair of the 2011 and 2015 Winter Fluorine Conferences. He is currently on the Executive Committee and is the ACS Councilor for the Division. He actively involves undergraduates in research and has had more than 50 undergraduates in his research group since joining UA in Jan. 2004 and has 27 peer-reviewed publications with undergraduate co-authors. These students have been very successful in winning UA Randall Undergraduate Research Awards, Hollings Scholarships, Goldwater Scholarships, and being named to the USA Today All-USA College Academic Team. He currently teaches the junior level required Physical Chemistry course in Quantum Chemistry for ACS majors and a Freshman Learning Community on Energy and Environment. He has previously taught and led the restructuring of the Honors Introductory Chemistry course as well as developing new laboratories for the course. He is part of an HHMI grant which is providing funding to advance the Freshman Laboratory experience.

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