Introduced to theoretical chemistry as a senior in high school, William Alexander Lester Jr., PhD, attended the University of Chicago on a scholarship and obtained a Bachelor of Science in 1958 and Master of Science in 1959. Pursuing postgraduate coursework at Washington University in St. Louis, MO, between 1959 and 1960, he first served as a physical chemist for the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) in Washington, DC, from 1961 to 1964 and obtained a Doctor of Philosophy from the Catholic University of America in 1964 with a thesis based on his NBS research. Shortly thereafter, he joined the Theoretical Chemistry Institute (TCI) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a research associate, and in 1965, was appointed assistant director of TCI followed by lecturer in the Department of Chemistry from 1966 to 1968. The IBM San Jose Research Laboratory hired him in 1968 as a research staff member, and from 1975 to 1976, he served on the technical planning staff at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center for one year before returning as a manager to the San Jose Laboratory. In 1978, he was appointed director of the National Resource for Computation in Chemistry at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), a position he held until 1981 when he was appointed professor of chemistry at the University of California Berkeley and faculty senior scientist at LBNL. He later held the position of associate dean of the College of Chemistry. With his UC Berkeley retirement in 2010, he was appointed professor of the Graduate School in Chemistry and remained as a faculty senior scientist at LBNL.
A prolific author, Dr. Lester has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Atomic and Molecular Sciences, the Journal of Chemical Physics, the Journal of Computational Physics, the International Journal of Quantum Chemistry, Computer Physics Communications and the Journal of Physical Chemistry. Having published more than 200 papers in professional journals throughout his tenure, he has also served as a speaker and discussant at the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, and National Institutes of Health forums on advanced scientific computing and human resource challenges. Dr. Lester is a fellow of the African Science Institute, the American Chemical Society, the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In addition to being a member of the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science, he has served on the Board of the Gordon Research Conferences and was selected as a ScienceMaker for the National African American Video Oral History Archive, The HistoryMakers.
The proud father of two children and grandfather of four grandchildren, Dr. Lester can now invest more time in his community. Efforts are focused on assisting young people of color in their personal and academic endeavors.
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