The attentive reader will have seen the name or the work of Matthias Bickelhaupt, Professor of Theoretical Chemistry at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU), several times in C2W | Mens & Molecule over the past year and a half. These articles were often accompanied by phrases such as ‘paradigm shift’, ‘misguided models’ and ‘shattered rules of thumb’. This is because Bickelhaupt is concerned with the underlying mechanisms of chemistry. Thinking about chemistry goes back a long way, he explains. ‘My first memory of chemistry was the 1973 oil crisis. Suddenly you had to pay for plastic bags, and as a child I thought that was very upsetting. At primary school I was told that chemists would find a solution. My father, who was an organic chemist, agreed’.
‘It doesn’t just happen; it’s difficult to arrive at something simple.’
Chemistry was also Bickelhaupt’s final choice – ‘it communicates the most with the other sciences’ – resulting in a major in theoretical chemistry, a minor in organic chemistry and, as a bonus, physical chemistry. ‘For me, organic chemistry is the chemical tree that connects all the other chemical branches’, says Bickelhaupt. ‘But my motivation is still “the big why”: I want to know why phenomena work the way they do, and you can find that in theory.’
Read the full article, which discusses among other things Bickelhaupt’s vision on the theory of chemistry and on Open Access.