William A. Lester, Jr.


(510) 643-9590
12 Gilman Hall
Professor of the Graduate School
  • Born 1937
  • B.S. University of Chicago (1958)
  • M.S. University of Chicago (1959)
  • Ph.D. Catholic University of America (1964)
  • Physical Chemist, National Bureau of Standards (1961-64)
  • Research Associate (1964-65)
  • Assistant Director (1965-68)
  • Theoretical Chemistry Institute, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Lecturer, Department of Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison (1966-68)
  • Research Staff (1968-75)
  • Technical Planning Staff (1975-76)
  • Manager (1976-78) IBM Corporation Director, National Resource for Computation in Chemistry (1978-81)
  • Associate Director, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (1978-81)
  • Senior Fellow for Science and Engineering and Assistant to the Director for Human Resource Development, NSF (1995-96)
  • U.S. National Committee IUPAC (1976-79)
  • Chemistry Advisory Panel, NSF (1981-83)
  • Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Panel, NSF (1985-87)
  • Editorial Boards: Journal of Physical Chemistry (1979-81)
  • International Journal of Quantum Chemistry (1979-87)
  • Journal of Computational Chemistry (1979-87)
  • Computer Physics Communications (1981-87)
  • Journal of Chemical Physics (2006-)
  • Percy L. Julian Award (1979) and Outstanding Teacher Award (1986) (NOBCChE)
  • Member ACS ("Treasurer, Division of Computers in Chemistry, 1974-77
  • Chairman, Division of Physical Chemistry, 1979)
  • APS (Fellow, 1984), Chairman, Division of Chemical Physics (1986)
  • NOBCChE, Board (1984-88)
  • Sigma XI, Board (1999-2000)
  • AAAS (Fellow, 1991), Board (1993-97)
  • Faculty Senior Scientist, Chemical Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (1981-)
  • Department of Energy Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (2000-2004)
  • Committee on the National Medal of Science (2000-2002)
  • International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science (2006)
  • Gordon Research Conferences, Council (1997-2000)
  • Site and Selection Committee (2000-2006)
  • Board of Trustees (2006-)
  • University of California, Berkeley Chancellor's Award for Advancing Institutional Excellence (2006)
  • Symposium in Honor of William A. Lester, Jr. on his 70th Birthday, University of California, Berkeley (2007)
  • William A. Lester, Jr. Festschrift in Journal of Physical Chemistry, Volume 112 Number 10 (2008)

Theoretical and Physical Chemistry — Advances in basic theory and computational methods have brought the study of molecular electronic structure to the point where theory/computation play a central role in the progress of the field.

Professor Lester's 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. Research by the Lester group has confirmed that highly accurate ground state and excited state energies are attainable by the method. Properties other than the energy including dipole and quadrupole moments, as well as matrix elements connecting different electronic states (oscillator strengths and lifetimes) have been determined following algorithms developed by his group. Further, energies of large molecules of biological and other interest are accessible with QMC. Extension of the QMC method to treat molecules in media is being pursued.