Nobel Laureate to visit New Zealand for Chemistry Centenary

05 March 2015

Nobel Laureate Professor Robert H Grubbs, a Hood Fellow of the University of Auckland, will visit New Zealand as part of the centenary celebrations of the School of Chemical Sciences being held this month.

Professor Grubbs received the Nobel Prize in 2005 for the development of catalysts for metathesis, a reaction widely used in organic synthesis.

Metathesis is an important type of chemical reaction with significant potential in the preparation of pharmaceuticals and polymers in the biotechnical industry and in foodstuffs production. However, the reaction requires a catalyst to proceed with high selectivity to yield the desired products.

The Grubbs catalyst based on the metal ruthenium was the first well-defined metathesis catalyst that is generally applicable, air stable and easy to synthesise.

The discoveries by Professor Grubbs have helped solve some of the major challenges of our time. The metathesis reaction has been successfully used in the synthesis of herbicides, additives for fuels, polymers with special properties and the development of pharmaceuticals such as those used for treating bacterial infections, hepatitis C, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, inflammation, fibrosis, HIV/AIDS, and many more.

Professor Grubbs was raised in rural Kentucky. His interest in science was inspired by his Junior High School science teacher and he went on to study agricultural chemistry at the University of Florida. His academic career began at Michigan State University and he moved to Caltech (California Institute of Technology) in 1978.

He is now the Victor and Elizabeth Atkins Professor of Chemistry at Caltech and one of the most influential chemists of our time. He has published more than 500 scientific papers with research interests spanning a wide variety of topics including organic, inorganic, polymer and applied chemistry.

The School of Chemical Sciences at the University of Auckland celebrates 100 years in March 2015, with a range of public events and distinguished visitor lectures on March 13 and 14.  For details go to:


For media enquiries, please contact Anne Beston -