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Nobel laureate Sir James Fraser Stoddart appointed as Honorary Professor of ECNU


On May 14, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart, an internationally renowned chemist and Nobel laureate in chemistry, returned to East China Normal University and was appointed as Honorary Professor.

Professor Stoddart’s contributions to science and academia have been nothing short of remarkable, leaving an incredible mark on the landscape of chemistry and nanotechnology.

Today we are honoured to have Professor Stoddart as ECNU Honorary Professor. This will not only stimulate the growth of our scientific research, talent training and team building, but also broaden the communication and collaboration, promote the international influence of ECNU, said Qian Xuhong, president of ECNU.

Qian Xuhong presented the Letter of Appointment to Prof. Stoddart, at the Appointment Ceremony hosted by Tian Yang, Dean of the School of Chemistry and Molecular Engineering.

Prof. Stoddart has developed highly efficient syntheses of mechanically-interlocked molecular architectures such as molecular Borromean rings, catenanes, and rotaxanes utilising molecular recognition and molecular self-assembly processes. He has demonstrated that these topologies can be employed as molecular switches.
His efforts have been recognized by numerous awards, including the 2007 King Faisal International Prize in Science. He shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Ben Feringa and Jean-Pierre Sauvage in 2016 for the design and synthesis of molecular machines. He has published over 1,270 papers in prestigious journals such as Nature and Science, with his research cited over 140,000 times globally.
Prof. Stoddart has also played a significant role in the development of molecular science in China. He has actively supervised doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows, and visiting scholars from China. He devoted himself to scientific research in China and established close cooperative relations with multiple academic institutions in the country, greatly enhancing the overall academic level and international reputation of China’s supramolecular chemistry and basic research in molecular machines.


Prof. Stoddart wearing his red satin Tang suit visited ECNU in 2017.

Prof. Stoddart wearing his red beret visited ECNU on May 14, 2024.

“On the path of scientific exploration, we must aim to solve significant problems.” In his speech, Prof. Stoddart humorously reviewed his legendary academic life from a farm boy to a Nobel laureate.
“When I was a child, I lived on a farm in Scotland, and all the transportation I saw was carriages. Before the age of 18, my home didn’t even have electricity.” In his speech titled “Around the World in 80 Years”, Prof. Stoddart shared his extraordinary journey of how a farm boy, nurtured in education, committed to research in chemistry, and international cooperation, reached the Nobel Prize podium.


He said sincerely, “One must be passionate and curious about academic pursuits, and maintain an open and inclusive mindset. Our research team consists of scholars from all over the world, and it is the integration and collision of diverse cultures that spark scientific creativity and inspiration.”
His student Prof. David Leigh is also one of the top experts in this field. Upon being appointed a distinguished professor at ECNU in 2017, Prof. Leigh has been committed to guiding and assisting the university in exploring the field of nanotopology.
Zhang Liang, a promising student of Prof. David Leigh, joined ECNU in 2020 to carry out research related to the synthesis of novel woven materials based on molecule topologies. The three generations of scholars have worked together to open up new paths in the field of molecular machinery.

Prof. Stoddart (right), Prof. David Leigh (left), and Prof. Zhang Liang (middle) participated in the 18th International Symposium on Macrocyclic and Supramolecular Chemistry in 2024.

During the meeting before the Appointment Ceremony, President Qian Xuhong expressed his gratitude to Prof. Stoddart for his long-term support for the development and growth of the chemistry field at the university. He also hoped to further carry out comprehensive and in-depth scientific cooperation, thus promoting the rapid development of the university’s molecular machines, nanoscience, and other fields.

Source: School of Chemistry and Molecular Engineering

Copy editor:Philip Nash, Huang Siyin

Editor: Xu Xincheng