Odile Eisenstein


Honorary Degree (1998)
Doctor of Science
Location: Bloomington
Presenter: Myles Brand


If an academic department can have a best friend, the Indiana University Department of Chemistry has found one in Odile Eisenstein. Eisenstein earned her doctoral degree in chemistry summa cum laude from University of Paris-Sud. She now spends most of each year working as professor of chemistry and director of France's national laboratory of theoretical chemistry in Montpellier. However, every year since 1984, she has visited the Bloomington campus as a volunteer visiting researcher and teacher. While here at her home away from home, she works with four faculty research groups and has helped supervise 11 graduate student theses. She was twice a fellow of IU's Institute for Advanced Studies, and she has taught two courses for IU students.

"Eisenstein's one-on-one teaching is really exciting to watch. She actively engages the students in the classroom (Socratic method), and her energy and quick mind set a high standard for an individual research student to match," said Kenneth Caulton, IU's distinguished professor of chemistry. Eisenstein also takes a personal interest in how the students respond. "The following is characteristic of her working style," Caulton said. "She simply walks into a Ph.D. student research lab and says, 'Hello. What new results do you have today?' " When such inquiries are made, they carry weight, for Eisenstein is a scientist of renown. "She is recognized the world over as an authority on the electronic structure of molecules," explained Malcolm H. Chisholm, distinguished professor of chemistry. "Her theoretical work ranges from the use of a pencil or pen with paper to some of the most sophisticated computational methods available." Although she is well-known for her work with theory, she is frequently sought after in the fields of inorganic and organometallic chemistry for collaborations with experimentalists. Her collaborations with members of the IU faculty have resulted in more than 30 co-authored publications and have attracted substantial research funds to the program here. "Most of all she thinks and teaches," said Chisholm, "looking for common trends and explaining matters to the lay person in terms of basic principles of science. It is indeed this aspect of her personality that makes her so attractive as a collaborator and she actively pursues this role. She is in a sense a 'global doctor' who makes house calls to those in need of [theoretical] assistance."

When not in Bloomington or Montpellier, Eisenstein travels the globe. She has delivered invited lectures in Amsterdam, York and Sheffield in England, Horence, Brisbane, Vancouver, Nagoya in Japan, and at numerous sites in France and the United States. She has won the French PRIX HE BEL, PRIX LANGEVIN, and the Silver Medal for Chemical Sciences of the French National Research Society. Since 1993, Eisenstein has been editor of the NEW JOURNAL OF CHEMISTRY. Eisenstein credits her mother, Basia Lipkowicz, for emphasizing education and reminding Eisenstein that "there is no barrier when one tries hard." Lipkowicz had migrated from Poland to Paris in 1929 to avoid job restrictions put on Jews, and she dreamed that her daughter would become an architect or bridge builder. As it turned out, Eisenstein became an architect of the future of chemistry.

Even though she is sought after worldwide, Odile Eisenstein still knows how to build strong friendships. Henry H. H. Remak, former director of IU's Institute for Advanced Study, said, "What makes her, in the six and a half years (1988-94) during which I was in charge of the institute, absolutely unique among our many international fellows is her long, continuous, profound commitment to Indiana University faculty and students."