Miller Institute Announces the Gabor A. and Judith K. Somorjai

Visting Miller Professorship Award


The Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science is pleased to announce the Gabor A. and Judith K. Somorjai Visiting Miller Professorship Award, established through a major gift to the Institute. The Somorjai's wishes are to support early career visiting scientists for a one-month term in the Miller Institute. Eligible recipients will be selected through the established Visiting Miller Professorship program competition and priority consideration will be granted to visiting scientists within the broad field of chemical sciences.

Gabor Somorjai is a Professor of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley and a Faculty Senior Scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He was born in Budapest in 1935 where he survived the tragedy of the Second World War. While attending University in the 1950s he met the young Judith Kaldor, his future wife, with whom he fled abroad after the Soviet suppression of the Hungarian Revolution. He received a PhD in Physical Chemistry at UC Berkeley in 1960 and then moved to New York to work at IBM in Yorktown Heights before returning to Berkeley to begin his academic career in 1964. He received tenure three years later and was appointed Full Professor in 1972. In 2001 he was named University Professor, the highest honor for faculty within the UC System. Professor Somorjai has trained more than 130 PhD students and 200 post-doctoral fellows. He has hosted Visiting Miller Professors Mostafa El-Sayed, Rutger Van Santen, Martin Quack, Ivar Olovsson, David King, John Pendry, Hans Siegmann, John Simons, and Harald Ibach and Miller Fellow Bruce Koel.

Professor Somorjai's research has focused on exploring and understanding catalytic selectivity of transition metal surfaces on the molecular level. His novel approach is to use model systems, presently monodispersed nanoparticles in the 1-10 nm range, to explore hydrocarbon conversion reactions. An important discovery from these studies is that the size and shape of metal nanoparticles control both reaction rates and selectivities. He developed surface-sensitive instruments that have permitted molecular level studies of the catalysts under reaction conditions at high pressures. Before the advent of these applications most catalysts were characterized only before and after the reactions. Somorjai has helped catalytic chemistry in its epoch-making transition from the macroscopic view to molecular-scale analysis.

Many institutions have recognized Somorjai throughout his distinguished career. His first association with the Miller Institute was as a Miller Research Professor in 1978. He became a Member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1979, was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1982 and elected Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1983. He has received Honorary Doctorates from many institutions including the Technical University of Budapest (1989), the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris (1990), the Université Libre de Bruxelles (1992), the Università degli Studi di Ferrara, Italy (1998), the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm (2000), University of Manchester (2001), ETH Zurich (2003) and Northwestern University (2010). He has received several awards from the American Chemical Society, among them the Peter Debye Award in Physical Chemistry in 1989, the Adamson Award in Surface Chemistry in 1994, and the Priestley Award (the highest honor bestowed an American chemist) in 2008. He received the Van Hippel Award from the Materials Research Society in 1997 and the Langmuir Prize from the American Physical Society in 2007. Together with Gerhard Ertl, he won the prestigious Wolf Prize in Chemistry in 1998. He was awarded the National Medal of Science and the Pauling Medal, both in 2002. In 2009 he was awarded the Miller Senior Fellowship Award, and he recently received the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Basic Sciences and the Eni Award “New Frontiers of Hydrocarbons Prize,” which promotes the best research and the best scientists in the field of energy.

Nominations for the Somorjai Visiting Miller Professorship award will be accepted during the Fall competition cycle for awards in the following Academic Year. Complete instructions will be made available on the Miller Institute website under the Visiting Professorships tab:



Angelos Michaelides

Fall 2013


Christophe Copéret

Fall 2015


Sarah Keller

Spring 2016


Chuan He

Spring 2017


Shana Kelley

Fall 2017


Edward Sargent

Fall 2017