Respected Stanford Chemist to Speak in Provo

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With a National Medal of Science, numerous scientific publications on everything from Martian meteorites to laser chemistry and more than thirty years at Stanford University, Richard N. Zare has had a long and successful career. On Feb. 7, he will speak to the community and share his thoughts on how to be successful.

sidebar-11-e1326307335467Zare will be visiting BYU to give two lectures as part of the annual Izatt-Christensen lecture. On Tuesday, Feb. 7, Zare will lecture to the general public. His address is titled “How to Be Successful.” Admission is free, and all members of the community are invited to attend.

Although he has had a successful career, Zare admitted that the title of his lecture, “How to Be Successful,” may sound a bit presumptuous.

“Who would dare use such a title, right? Who can say to others for sure how to be successful?” Zare said. “It’s a topic I’ve been fascinated about for quite some time; it’s interesting because so few people actually write about it.”

During the lecture, Zare plans to share some thoughts on how to lead a successful life and have a successful career.

Life is full of problems according to Zare, and he thinks it is very important to approach those problems in the right way.

“Very few people tell you anything about the nature of going about problem solving; instead, often they show you how to solve problems,” Zare said. “Seeing somebody slickly go through a solution to a problem very seldom really instructs you how to really — yourself — go about a problem, because that tends to be a process of flailing around trying this and that.”

Zare ascribes his approach to problem solving to an attitude rather than a process.

“You need very much a spirit of playfulness and allowing yourself to fail,” Zare said. “I don’t do crossword puzzles with ink: I use a pencil and eraser, and you have to be able to do the same thing with a lot of problems.”

On Wednesday, Feb. 8, Zare will also give a more technical lecture titled “Searching for Short Lived Intermediates in Liquid Chemical Reactions.” Part of Zare’s research has focused on identifying the low-concentration molecules that quickly form and disappear during chemical reactions.

He will explain a new technique that uses mass spectrometry to identify these intermediates in solution chemistry. All interested parties, especially chemistry students and professors, are invited to attend.

Dr. Zare’s general lecture will be held at 4 p.m. on Feb. 7 in the Varsity Theater of the Wilkinson Student Center at BYU. His technical lecture will be at 4 p.m. on Feb. 8 in room W112 of the Ezra Taft Benson building, also at BYU. For more information, please contact Peggy Erickson at 801-422-6269 or by email at

By Erik Westesen Posted on