Emeritus Professor Hans C. Freeman AM FAA FRACI, who passed away in late 2008, was a dedicated teacher and mentor, keenly aware that early involvement in research and exposure to world-leading researchers can be inspirational to young scientists. In honour of Hans Freeman, the Foundation for Inorganic Chemistry held a one-day symposium and dinner on 29 June with world renowned chemist, Professor Harry B. Gray from the California Institute of Technology as the Inaugural Hans C. Freeman lecturer. In another first, the school hosted the Inaugural NSW/ACT RACI Student Symposium in Inorganic Chemistry on 30 June.
The Foundation for Inorganic Chemistry has a long history spanning nearly four decades since its inception in 1973, during which time it has played an integral role in encouraging excellence in teaching and research in the field. Many distinguished scientists from abroad, including Nobel Prize winners Professors Linus Pauling, Henry Taube and Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson have visited the School through the support of the Foundation. This year, to mark the many contributions of Professor Hans Freeman, AM FAA to Australian science and his initiative in co-founding the Foundation with Dr. Alexander Boden, AO FAA, the Inaugural Hans C. Freeman Lectureship was established with the generous support from the Freeman family. During late June and early August, the department welcomed a two-week visit from Professor Harry B. Gray, the Arnold O. Beckman Professor of Chemistry and the Founding Director of the Beckman Institute at the California Institute of Technology. This made for a particularly fitting start to this series of annual Lectureships given that Professors Gray and Freeman were not only close scientific collaborators for over two decades, but the friendship between their families has endured to the present day.
The Inaugural Hans C. Freeman Lecture was held on the evening of 29 June and was well attended by members of the university, the chemistry community and the wider public. As a tribute to the distinguished research of Professor Freeman in the field of Bioinorganic Chemistry, Professor Gray enthralled the audience with a presentation that expounded the integral role of electron flow through metalloproteins on the delicate balance between life and death.
The lecture was preceded by a one-day symposium on Inorganic and Bioinorganic Chemistry which included past students and colleagues, for all of whom Professor Freeman's personal and professional influence was clearly evident. The twelve speakers included Professors Mitchell Guss (USyd), Nick Dixon (UOW), David Ollis (ANU), Des Richardson (USyd), Tony Wedd (UMelb), Peter Colman (WEHI), and Trevor Hambley (USyd), A/Prof. Steve Colbran (UNSW) and Drs Rachel Codd (USyd) and Aviva Levina (USyd). The depth and breadth of Professor Freeman's influence on the field of protein crystallography in Australia and the world was apparent from the range of subjects presented–from structural studies of copper proteins to discussions on Relenza, siderophores, nitrogenases and anti-diabetic drugs.
The Foundation Dinner was held at St Paul's College following the symposium and lecture, in which some 60 former colleagues and students were joined by Professor Freeman's family - his wife, Edith and their children, Maeva and Philip and his wife Kristina - along with close friends. The after-dinner speech, given by Harry, was robust and entertaining. He drew on many anecdotes that highlighted the heady days of research collaboration with Hans.
The Inaugural One-Day Student Symposium in Inorganic Chemistry was held on Thursday 30 June in the School of Chemistry to highlight the research of Honours and PhD students in the field of Inorganic Chemistry–in its broadest sense, from bioinorganic chemistry to materials science and beyond. The symposium was supported by the NSW branch of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute and the Foundation for Inorganic Chemistry, with generous sponsorship from Dionex-ThermoFisher, Lomb Scientific, Merck Millipore, Shimadzu, Perkin Elmer and Lion Nathan. Prizes for the best poster and oral presentations from students were sponsored by Bruker Biospin.
The School welcomed 88 attendees, of which 70 were students, from eight institutions: the University of Sydney, the University of Technology, the University of New South Wales, the Australian National University, the Australian Defence Force Academy, the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, the University of Wollongong and the University of Adelaide. The highlight of the event was a keynote lecture on 'The Oxo Wall' by the Guest of Honour, Professor Harry Gray, who enthralled us with his personal account of the development of Ligand Field Theory.
Eleven students were selected to present oral presentations spanning topics from the synthesis of arsenical complexes and pincer ligands to catalysis, antimicrobial agents, cancer diagnostics, dendrimers for non-linear optics and negative thermal expansion. A further thirty-two students presented posters covering an even broader range of topics, attesting to the depth and breadth of research involving inorganic chemistry in Australia. The prize for the best poster presentation was presented to Carol Hua (UNSW) for 'Novel Rhodium and Iridium Metal Complexes Containing a 1,2,3-Triazole Pyrazole Ligand', while the best oral presentation was jointly awarded to Jessica Stanley (USyd) for 'Designing Nanoscopic, Fluxional Bimetallic Pt-Ru Alloy Hydrogenation Catalysts for Improved Sulfur Resistance' and to Di Lu (ANU) for 'Synthesis and Resolution of Arsenicin A, a Natural Adamantane-Type Polyarsenical'.
While most other states of Australia have hosted such inorganic student symposia for many years, we hope that this first symposium for NSW and ACT will become an integral part of the calendar of events for research students in the region. It was particularly fitting that this first symposium be held during this International Year of Chemistry, and we hope that future symposia will continue to provide a wonderful opportunity for networking and interaction between our research students who will become future leaders of science in Australia and abroad.
Harry also presented two other well-attended seminars: a School of Chemistry seminar entitled the "Solar Army"; and a Sydney University Chemical Society Lecture entitled "Metalloprotein Folding", both of which created considerable discussion with the audience. He also attended many group meetings within the School covering many different areas of chemistry, where he learnt more about the School's research and was actively involved in discussions with research group members, particularly students.