Introduced to theoretical chemistry as a senior in high school, William Alexander Lester Jr. Ph.D., attended the University of Chicago on a scholarship and obtained a Bachelor of Science in 1958 and Master of Science in 1959. Completing postgraduate coursework at Washington University in St. Louis, MO, between 1959 and 1960, he first served as a physical chemist for the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Washington, DC, from 1961 to 1964 before obtaining a Doctor of Philosophy from the Catholic University of America in 1964. Soon thereafter, he served the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a research associate and assistant director in the Theoretical Chemistry Institute and as a lecturer in the department of chemistry between 1966 and 1968 before being hired by IBM as a research staff member in the Research Laboratory and technical planning staff member at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center from 1968 to 1976. After acting in myriad roles with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory between 1978 and 1981, he was employed by the University of California, Berkeley, as a professor of chemistry, where he also held the roles of associate dean of the College of Chemistry and professor in the department of chemistry of the graduate school, a role he has held since 2010. Likewise, he has been a faculty senior scientist for the national resource for computation in chemistry at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory since 1981.
A prolific author and editor, Dr. Lester has been the associate editor of the Journal of Atomic and Molecular Sciences since 2010 and a contributor to the editorial board of “Communications on Analysis, Geometry and Physics” since 1997. Having written more than 200 papers in professional journals throughout his tenure, he has also spoken before the National Bureau of Standards and was an invited speaker to the Staff Training in Extramural Programs committed forum. In addition, he was made co-chair of the ScienceMakers Advisory Board for the HistoryMakers and the National African-American Video Oral History Archive. To remain abreast of developments in the field, he maintains affiliation with the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers as a fellow. Likewise, he is a member of the American Chemical Society, the California Academy of Sciences, and the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science.
The proud father of two children and grandfather of four grandchildren, Dr. Lester enjoys playing basketball in his spare time. Looking toward the future, he intends to invest more time in his community and guide young people of color in their personal and academic endeavors.
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