February 3, 2018
The National Society of Black Physicists honors Dr. William A. Lester, Jr.
William Lester Jr. was born on April 24, 1937, in Chicago, Illinois. He earned his B.S. degree in 1958, and his master’s degree in chemistry in 1959 from the University of Chicago. Lester obtained his Ph.D. in chemistry from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., in 1964.
His early work on the use of correlated Gaussian basis functions for the calculation of properties of atomic and molecular systems continues to be cited. He was one of the first researchers to solve the nuclear Schroedinger equation for cross sections and rate constants for atom-molecule energy transfer using a full quantum treatment. As the director of the National Resource for Computation in Chemistry, Lester organized and led the first unified effort in computational chemistry in the United States.
Professor Lester is currently a professor emeritus in the chemistry department at UC Berkeley. His research efforts are focused on theoretical studies of the electronic structure of molecules. Efforts in the former area are directed to extending the powerful quantum Monte Carlo (QMC) method to the range of chemical problems that form the traditional domain of quantum chemistry, and beyond. He was also elected a fellow of the APS, ACS, and AAAS. In addition to his professional activities, Lester remained committed to science education and sparking an interest in pursuing science careers in minority students.