Prize Recipient

Recipient Picture

Gabor Somorjai
University of California, Berkeley


"For his pioneering research in surface chemistry and delineation of catalytic mechanisms."


Gabor A. Somorjai was born in Budapest, Hungary, on May 4, 1935. He was a fourth year student of Chemical Engineering at the Technical University in Budapest in 1956 at the outbreak of the Hungarian Revolution. He left Hungary and emigrated to the United States, where he received his Ph.D. degree in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 1960.

After graduation, he joined the IBM research staff in Yorktown Heights, New York, where he remained until 1964. At that time, he was appointed Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1967, he was named Associate Professor, and in 1972 promoted to Professor. Concurrent with his faculty appointment, he is also a Faculty Senior Scientist in the Materials Sciences Division, and Director of the Surface Science and Catalysis Program at the Center for Advanced Materials, at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He was appointed University Professor by the UC Board of Regents in March of 2002.

Professor Somorjai has educated more than 120 Ph.D. students and close to 200 postdoctoral fellows, about 100 of which hold faculty positions and many more are leaders in industry, He is the author of about 1000 scientific papers in the fields of surface chemistry, heterogeneous catalysis, and solid state chemistry. He has written three textbooks, Principles of Surface Chemistry, Prentice Hall, 1972; Chemistry in Two Dimensions: Surfaces, Cornell University Press, 1981; and Introduction to Surface Chemistry and Catalysis, Wiley-Interscience, 1994; and a monograph, Adsorbed Monolayers on Solid Surfaces, Springer-Verlag, 1979.

Professor Somorjai was elected Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1976. He is a member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received the Wolf Prize in Chemistry in 1998, the Von Hippel Award from the Materials Research Society in 1997, and he was awarded with the National Medal of Science in 2002. He has four awards from the American Chemical Societey (Debye, Surface Chemistry, Catalysis and Adamson), the Pauling Medal and six honorary doctorates from various European universities.

Professor Somorjais present research in the fields of catalysis and surface chemistry include studies of structure and bonding at surfaces by sum frequency generation (SFG) vibrational spectroscopy and high pressure STM; metal nanoparticle synthesis, characterization and catalytic reaction studies; surface science of heterogeneous catalysis; molecular studies of polymer surfaces and adsorbed peptides.

Selection Committee:

Kenneth Jordan, Wilson Ho (12/06), David Chandler (2005 recipient)(12/06), Mostafa A. El-Sayed (V. Chair)(12/08), Paul Barbara (12/08)