Free lecture, 'Water: The Molecule That Shapes Our World,' Jan. 30

A free public lecture titled "Water: The Molecule That Shapes Our World" will be given from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Jan. 30, in room 100 of the Thomas Building on Penn State's University Park campus by Karl Mueller, professor of chemistry at Penn State. The event is the second of six lectures in the 2010 Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science, a free mini course for the general public with the theme "Water: The Next Frontier." No registration is required.

More information, including archived recordings of previous lectures, can be found at online.

"Water is one of the most fascinating substances on Earth," Mueller said. "Without water our planet as we know it would not exist."

His lecture will be a scientific tour through the unusual properties of this incredible molecule, beginning at the molecular level and relating atomic-level details to the everyday behaviors of water that continue to interest scientists. Audience members will be led on a discovery of how our world has been shaped by the interactions between water and other materials, and how the Earth's current and future water resources may redefine the way we live.

Mueller's research program is driven by questions in fundamental and applied environmental science and materials science, including investigations involving water.  He is known for his success in pushing the envelope of interdisciplinary science by forming collaborations with chemists, geochemists, materials scientists, engineers, and information scientists at universities, businesses and in government agencies including the U. S. Department of Energy. As the principal investigator of a $2.3 million project sponsored by the National Science Foundation to develop tools that facilitate multi-disciplinary, multi-scale research in environmental and molecular sciences, Mueller has had to bridge disciplinary divides that separate chemists, geochemists, physicists and information scientists to create a cohesive team. The research team he leads in this project is developing software and cyber-infrastructure to collect, analyze and distribute data to scientists working on environmental chemistry problems. Much of this work has been conducted in conjunction with the Penn State Center for Environmental Kinetics Analysis (CEKA), which is an interdisciplinary research center focusing on understanding complex chemical reactions in the environment.

In addition to the interdisciplinary research that Mueller conducts, he and his research group are investigating fundamental properties of solid surfaces and their reactions with chemical species. These studies are particularly important for increasing scientific understanding of the solid-water interface and are relevant for both industrial applications as well as understanding phenomena occurring in the environment.

His research achievements have been honored with a Camille and Henry Dreyfus New Faculty Award in 1992, a National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award in 1994, an Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation Young Investigator Award in 1996, a Cottrell Scholar Award in 1996, a Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award in 1997, and an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship in 1999. He also received a Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst Study Visit Fellowship in 1998 and was selected as the Varian Lecturer by the University of Ottawa in 2007. Mueller received a bachelor's degree in chemistry, summa cum laude, at the University of Rochester in 1985, a certificate of postgraduate studies as a Churchill Scholar at Cambridge University in 1986, and a doctoral degree in chemistry at the University of California at Berkeley in 1991. He held a postdoctoral appointment at the University of British Columbia from 1991 to 1993, when he joined the Penn State chemistry faculty.

The Penn State Lectures on the Frontiers of Science is a program of the Penn State Eberly College of Science. The this year's series is sponsored jointly by the Penn State Eberly College of Science and the Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment. For more information or access assistance, contact the Eberly College of Science Office of Media Relations and Public Information at 814-863-0901 or

Last Updated February 10, 2011