Scholes Named Chair of Chemistry Department

By Wendy Plump
Friday, Mar. 13, 2020

Gregory Scholes, the William S. Tod Professor of Chemistry, has been appointed Chair of the Department of Chemistry effective July 1. He will succeed current chair Tom Muir, the Van Zandt Williams Jr. Class of 1965 Professor of Chemistry, who has held the post since 2015.

Scholes, who directs the Energy Frontier Research Center BioLEC (Bio-inspired Light-Escalated Chemistry), brings an ambitious agenda to the position. He will seek broader roles for junior faculty members and a new dedication to increasing the prominence of women in chemistry.

Professor Gregory Scholes
Photo courtesty of the American Chemical Society

“I’m honored to be asked to chair the department, though it’s a daunting responsibility,” said Scholes. “I hope I can use this opportunity to make the department even stronger. In particular—with the support of my colleagues—I’d like to engage junior faculty more in deciding the strategies and initiatives for the department.

“I’d also like us to make a step-change in the faculty gender diversity,” he said. “The university administration is providing enthusiastic support to enable us to succeed.”

In particular, Scholes said he was motivated by the words of Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), chairwoman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology, who in 2019 charged the STEM community with creating a more diverse workforce. He added it is imperative to address the gender balance among faculty in the natural sciences.

“To compete scientifically on the big problems and promises of science today, we need to think not only of limited resources – such as securing funding and space – but how to leverage the most important and plentiful resource we have: our people,” Scholes said. “To engage women in chemistry, we should lead from the front. We require leadership, mentorship, and role models from women faculty.”

The Scholes Group studies how complex molecular systems in chemistry and biology interact with light. The Group seeks particularly to understand the mechanisms for photoinitiated processes like solar energy conversion.

Scholes has been a professor with the Department since 2014. He serves the scientific community as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, which publishes more than 2,500 manuscripts annually. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society in London; Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada; Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry; a Senior Fellow and newly appointed Co-Director of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) program Bioinspired Solar Energy; an Adjunct Professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology; and a Professorial Fellow at the University of Melbourne.

He also chairs a Consolidator Grants panel for the European Research Council, and serves on the Executive Committee of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.

Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Scholes did his postdoctoral training at Imperial College London and the University of California, Berkeley. He started his independent career at the University of Toronto, where he was the D.J. LeRoy Distinguished Professor. He held that position from 2000 to 2014. He left Toronto in 2014 for Princeton.

Scholes lives in Princeton with his wife Carolyne and children, Bronte and Beckett, and stepchildren Katherine and Maddie. He enjoys making furniture in his spare time.