Alexander I. Boldyrev, R. Gaurth Hansen Professor of Chemistry at Utah State University
A native of Novokuznetsk in Siberia, Alexander (Alex) Boldyrev’s interest in chemistry and quantum mechanics began in 10th grade when he attended the physico-mathematical school at Novosibirsk University, where he later was admitted for university-level education. During his time at this university, he learned about quantum chemistry and carried out his first calculations. Upon graduation from Novosibirsk, he undertook graduate study at Moscow State University where he studied under Prof. Oleg Charkin, focusing on the behavior of non-rigid/fluxional molecules, earning his Ph. D. degree in 1978. It was during his graduate studies that he married Natalia, and their son Dmitry was born. Alex moved to the Institute of Chemical Physics at the USSR Academy of Sciences in 1983, working in Prof. Alexander Ovchinnikov’s group. In 1986, a Doctor of Sciences degree was conferred by the Moscow Physico-Chemical Institute where he carried out research and taught.
It was in this timeframe when his work on superhalogens and superalkalkalis blossomed. Later, he was an Advanced Senior Researcher at the USSR Academy of Sciences (1988-1991). From 1990 through 1991, he held an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship, working in collaboration with Prof. Paul Schleyer. Then, in 1992 Alex decided he wanted to move to the U. S., and Prof. Jack Simons was fortunate to attract him to the University of Utah, where he served as a Research Professor. After several highly productive years doing research on a variety of novel molecular and anionic species, in 1999 Alex Boldyrev was offered and accepted a faculty position at Utah State University, where he remained teaching and carrying out research in the Chemistry Department until his death.
Professor Boldyrev’s Google Scholar page shows more than 600 scientific publications, more than 25,000 citations, and an h-index of 85, all of which are remarkable. He has won numerous awards, including two Humboldt Fellowships, a Fulbright Fellowship, the 2008 American Chemical Society Utah Award, and election to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His work with Gutsev on superhalogens (molecules with electron affinities in excess of those of the halogen atoms) and superalakalis was groundbreaking and remains highly recognized, and his extensive body of work extending the concept of aromaticity into metallic clusters with Aleksey Kuznetsov, Anastassia Alexandrova, and others has been revolutionary. With Dmitry Zubarev, he developed an electron density partitioning technique, called AdNDP, which allows to identify simple 2-electron bonding motifs in complicated systems such as inorganic clusters and materials. AdNDP is widely used by many theorists around the world. Another component of Alex’s research has been close collaboration with experimental scientists, highlighted by his many-year interaction with Lai-Sheng Wang; the two of them studied many novel species including dianions that are only stable when solvated, anions containing planar tetra-coordinated carbon species, superhalogen anions, and more.
In addition to being a world-class chemist, Alexander Boldyrev made major contributions in two other areas well worth mentioning. He produced several first-rate Ph. D. students who have gone off to pursue successful scientific careers of their own. He has been a wonderful mentor. 6 of his Ph.D. students won the Robins Award – the most prestigious award for graduate students in USU. He, along with Prof. Alexandrova, Prof. Wang, and his wife, Natalia Boldyreva, created the International Conference on Chemical Bonding in 2013 and have hosted this international conference on the island of Kauai, Hawaii every year since then. This Conference will now be named in Alex’s honor starting in 2025. Along with all of this, he was a gifted and devoted instructor and faculty colleague. At whatever level, his classes were among the most sought after among both undergraduates and graduate students, and he provided individual attention to all, conveying his infectious enthusiasm for chemistry at all levels.
Alex is survived by his wife, Natalia, and his son Dimitri. His memory will live on in the hearts and minds of the scientific community and all those who have been touched by his exceptional work.
A funeral service will be held on Friday, September 1, 2023 at 12:00 pm at White Pine Funeral Services, 753 S 100 E, Logan, UT 84321. A viewing will be held prior from 11:00 am to 11:45 am, also at White Pine. Interment at Logan City Cemetery.
Those who would like to attend the service virtually may use the following link: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/85255828513
Those interested in making a donation to the USU Alexander Boldyrev Scholarship Endowment can visit the following website: https://www.usu.edu/