Henry Rzepa was born in London (not quite within the sound of Bow Bells) of Polish parents and took his B.Sc (1971), Ph.D (1974) and D.Sc. (1990) Degrees at the University of London at Imperial College, where since 1991 he has been a Reader in Organic Chemistry. He managed to turn his fingers yellow for the first time at the age of twelve, and one year later, redecorated the ceiling of his parents' kitchen in similar fashion. In recognition of his improved synthetic skills, he was awarded the Governors' prize at Imperial College in 1971. The award of a Salters' scholarship enabled him to add significantly to the known collection of highly hindered indole derivatives for his Ph.D. thesis, and a NATO fellowship enabled him to join the group of Michael Dewar in Texas during the period 1974-77 to study what would later become known as computational chemistry. In the last twenty years the work done by him, his group at Imperial College and both academic and industrial collaborators around the world in this area has resulted in the publication of around 110 research papers and articles.
The work has focused on studying the mechanisms of a variety of pericyclic reactions, on establishing the diverse roles of stereoelectronic effects involving nitrogen, oxygen, sulfur or fluorine substituents in reaction mechanisms, chiral recognition and biological processes. His works has also combined computational methods with experimental techniques such NMR spectroscopy and X-ray crystallography to study molecules exhibiting very strong or unusual types of hydrogen bonds, and showing how these impact upon molecular recogntion processes. During the period 1986 -1993, Dr Rzepa was scientific director of the Computational Chemistry Workshops at Oxford University, which attracted many international speakers and participants.
From 1982 to the present, Dr Rzepa has played a key role in introducing and showing how to utilise effectively high-performance computer networks in the chemistry department at Imperial College. In 1993, his group was amongst the first to demonstrate how the new "information superhighways", such as SuperJanet in the UK could be applied to molecular sciences. In 1988, his attention was first drawn to how the then nascent Internet could be developed as a novel high quality information and computational tool for chemists. He has been involved in several standards setting processes in this area, such as the widely deployed chemical MIME types. In the last seven years has been developing new applications of the Internet in areas such as enhancing electronic journals (the CLIC project in association with the Royal Society of Chemistry), the creation of the ECTOC series of electronic conferences series based around organic chemistry which have helped to create a new genre for chemical communication, in association with Peter Murray-Rust the development and application of Chemical Markup Language (CNL) being the first formal scientific application of XML, and projects such as "molecules-of-the-month" and the virtual chemistry laboratory which are possible models for the creation of future virtual schools in chemistry. In 1996, he helped found and become co-chair of the Open Molecule Foundation, an organisation which seeks to promote standards and to originate Internet-based chemical and biological tools and applications. Dr Rzepa has written around 80 articles and reviews in the area of the chemical Internet and chemo-informatics.
Dr Rzepa has given many invited and keynote talks around the world about chemical applications of the Internet, he instigated the Chemistry Webmaster one-day meetings and the ChemInt international conferences, and he started and co-ordinates a number of Internet-based discussion forums in chemistry.
Dr Rzepa is the recipient of the 1995 Joseph Loschmidt prize for research in the area of Physical Organic Chemistry, awarded by the Royal Society of Chemistry, the 2002 Pzifer award for teaching excellence in organic chemistry and the 2012 ACS Herman Skolnik award for cheminformatics. He was appointed to Professor of Computational Chemistry in 2003.
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