Chemical engineer Martin Feinberg was honored recently with an invitation to deliver a John von Neumann Memorial Lecture in Theoretical Biology at the prestigious Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. The subject of the March 5 lecture was research by Feinberg and his students on chemical reaction network theory. The talk was followed by a dinner and an evening session devoted to informal discussion.
"The Institute for Advanced Study -- where Einstein, von Neumann, and Oppenheimer spent parts of their careers -- is a singular place on the worldwide academic scene," Feinberg says. "To give a named lecture there is quite a special honor."
Feinberg, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Rochester, is widely regarded in chemical engineering circles as a founder of chemical reaction network theory, a field that attempts to uncover patterns in complex systems of intertwined chemical reactions. His research bridges the gap between chemistry and mathematics, allowing him to track the concentrations of reactants in chemical systems that have dozens of individual components.
While Feinberg's work doesn't explicitly touch on biology, the invitation to Princeton was initiated by physicists and molecular biologists who discovered Feinberg's papers and felt that chemical reaction network theory could help explain the complex regulatory chemistry of cells.