When appointed professor of Physical Chemistry of Chalmers Bengt Nordén was for many years among the youngest Chair Professors in Sweden and had ample opportunities to build up an institution engaging young people that shared his broad interests, ranging from spectroscopy, photophysics and quantum chemistry, to molecular biology, biotechnology and medicine. He is harvesting the fruits of this interdisciplinary onset in various forms: serendipitous breakthroughs and a unique physical-chemical school at Chalmers with a world-renowned spectroscopic profile, to mention two. Being a generalist by virtue of both curiosity and training has been helpful when he has been in charge of major awarding systems, including the Nobel Prize. As a tracker of ground-breaking achievements he also in this role received continuous inspiration to new research directions.
Bengt Nordéns contribution to form a strong research school in Gothenburg has been successful: as many as 12 out of his about 50 former PhD students and postdocs have become professors, abroad or at other Swedish universities, and three have returned to contribute a forceful environment with their own profiles within the Department: Prof Bo Albinsson (femtosecond spectroscopy and fundamentals of electron transfer), Prof Per Lincoln (new transition-metal-based DNA ligands and statistical mechanics for gene targeting), Prof Björn Ĺkerman (fundamentals and applications of DNA physical chemistry). Regarding mentorship for young researchers, as former chairman of a final-selection committee for the ESF EURYI awards (ca 1 M EUR each) he was nominated president of an academy formed by the 100 eminent young researchers that have been awarded in total during this program. Dr Nordén is also the founder of the Molecular Frontiers Foundation, a global out-reach program for spreading interest for molecular sciences among the youth. Its Scientific Advisory Board consists of 27 top scientists from all over the world of whom nine are Nobel Prize Winners.
The coffee-room plays a central role when creating a creative research atmosphere – many ideas have been born out of lively discussions in a friendly environment. Being surrounded by other international recognized researchers such as Owe Orwar and Bo Albinsson contributes to making the department a cross-disciplinary incubator for new collaborations and projects.