A chemist and a biochemist are two of the 25 recipients of the 2005 MacArthur grants worth $500 000 (£276 000) to further their 'exceptional' work.

A chemist and a biochemist are two of the 25 recipients of the 2005 MacArthur grants, which are awarded to US citizens who show ’exceptional merit and promise for continued and enhanced creative work’. 

The awards, established in 1981, are five-year grants worth $500 000 
(?276 000). Recipients can use the funds in whatever way they want, and are under no reporting obligations.

Todd Martinez, professor of chemistry at the Universityof Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), is investigating the quantum mechanical properties of chemical reactions. He has developed a novel method, known as ab initio multiple spawning, for simultaneously solving the electronic and nuclear Schr?dinger equations for the atoms and electrons involved in a reaction. He has used the method to explore various chemical reaction processes, including the re-arrangement of chemical bonds, tunnelling and photoisomerisation.

Martinezplans to use part of the grant to take his research group away to some exotic location for a combined holiday and extended group meeting. ’I will give some of it away,’ he told Chemistry World, ’possibly to help endow a graduate student award for research in physical chemistry at UIUC. The bulk of it will be used to further my research.’

Pehr Harbury is an associate professor of biochemistry at Stanford Universitystudying the molecular mechanisms that determine the structure and activity of proteins. His aim is to develop predictive principles so that he can design polypeptides with novel structures and catalytic properties. He has already developed a method for accurately predicting the structure of the amino acid side-chains found on many proteins.

The grants are awarded by the MacArthur Foundation to people working in any creative field and are designed to remove all significant financial constraints on the recipients’ creativity and productivity. Other recipients of the 2005 MacArthur grants include a pharmacist, a neuroscientist, a violin maker and a novelist. Jon Evans