INFORMAL 1st-PERSON BIO
I was born and raised in Belgium. Following an old-school Latin gymnasium education, I obtained my Licentiate [combined undergraduate degree] in Chemistry in 1987, my Ph.D. in early 1991, and my Habilitation/Higher Doctorate/Faculty Qualification in 1994, all from the University of Antwerp. In 1995 the National Science Foundation of Belgium granted me a permanent research position.
During 1992-3, I spent a postdoctoral stint in the USA, first with Timothy J. Lee and Peter R. Taylor at NASA Ames Research Center. When Peter accepted a faculty position at UCSD and San Diego Supercomputer Center, I followed him there. One Friday night at synagogue, I met a petite, ebullient, polyglot musician named Wendy Gardner, an "army brat" of Russian-Jewish origin to whom I am still happily married.
1995 was another fateful year for us. Our daughter Aviva was born, I obtained tenure as a research associate with the National Science Foundation of Belgium, and the late lamented Chava Lifshitz invited me for a sabbatical at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as a Golda Meir Fellow. One thing led to another, and before long the Weizmann Institute offered me a faculty position.
After long reflection — and turning the sabbatical into an opportunity to see if we could handle the reality of life in Israel, as distinct from our romantic fantasy thereof — we decided to accept the offer and make our home here. Giving up tenure was a bit of a nail-biter, but in 2001 I did get promoted to associate professor with tenure, and further promotion to full professor followed in 2005. At that point, I was honored to succeed crystallographer and pioneering supramolecular chemist Meir Lahav as the Baroness Thatcher Professor of Chemistry.
We spent July 2007-June 2008 in Chicagoland, as I was on sabbatical with Prof. George C. Schatz at Northwestern University. Upon my return, I served as Senior Advisor for IT affairs to the President of the Weizmann Institute, until I spent another stint abroad — this time around in Dallas, TX, where I was Distinguished University Research Professor at the UNT Center for Advanced Scientific Computing and Modeling. Since August 1, 2012, I have been back full-time at Weizmann.
Thus far, I have published some 270 papers, which have been cited over 17,300 times, with a h-index=71 at the time of writing. (Source: ISI Web of Knowledge.) I am a foreign member of the Belgian Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences” (KVAB) and a IUPAC Fellow; other professional honors include the Dirac Medal of WATOC (2004), the Wolgin Prize for Scientific Excellence (2008), the Outstanding Young Scientist Award of the Israel Chemical Society (2000), and the 1997 Alumni Award (one prize in Chemistry every 5 years) of the Belgian-American Educational Foundation. Most recently I was awarded the Israel Chemical Society Prize for Excellence [announcement January 9, 2018].
While my "official" mother tongue is Dutch, I am in greater command of English at this point (both spoken and written). I am fully fluent in Hebrew; while I read and understand French and German fully, my spoken French and especially German have gotten a bit rusty. Additionally, I can read Spanish and Italian well enough to understand work-related documents in these languages.
History, the written word, and above all music are my enduring passions outside science and my family.
A generation without history has no past, and no future. (Robert A. Heinlein)
The first principle [of science] is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool. (Richard P. Feynman)
After hearing Bach, people feel there may be meaning to life after all. (Helmut Walcha, blind organist)
Let knowledge grow from more to more
But more of reverence in us dwell
That mind and soul, according well
May make one music as before
PR photo made by the Weizmann Institute photography team, 2000
Lily, our "Holy Land Terrier" or
ART (Accidental Rat Terrier),
part of our household since 2002
Computational thermochemistry and kinetics
High-accuracy benchmark databases.
1992 - 1993
NASA Ames Research Center & San Diego Supercomputing Center
Postdoc with Timothy J. Lee and Peter R. Taylor.
With special reference to biomolecules.
Density functional theory
Development of novel fifth-rung functionals.
Applications, mostly in collaboration with experimental groups
1987 - 1991
University of Antwerp
Ph.D. in computational quantum chemistry. [UMI ProQuest Dissertations 9129654].
1983 - 1987
University of Antwerp
"Licentiate" (4-year combined B.Sc./M.Sc. degree) in physical chemistry.
1991 - 1994
University of Antwerp
Agrégation supérieure (Habilitation/Higher Doctorate). [UMI ProQuest Dissertations 9532332]
Computational rovibrational spectroscopy
Postdoc subject, occasionally revisited. Anharmonic force fields.