Mark Ratner describes himself as a theoretical materials chemist. Arguably the youngest of the chemical sciences, materials chemistry is concerned with how chemical interactions control and determine the properties of materials. Throughout his career, Ratner has aimed to develop models to define a theoretical language for how the molecular structures of a material are manifested in its physical properties. His work has focused on several areas including charge transport (1, 2), ion transfer (3), nonlinear optical behavior (4), and quantum dynamics (5, 6). Electron-transfer reactions, so fundamental to life, underlie biological processes such as photosynthesis, cytochrome p450 reactions, and cellular respiration as well as materials processes such as electrochemistry and corrosion. “It's one of the most important reactions in chemistry, which is why I've spent 30 years on it and will spend the rest of my life on it,” he said.

Born in Cleveland in 1942, Ratner graduated from Harvard University (Cambridge, MA) in 1964 with an undergraduate degree in chemistry. He obtained his Ph.D. in chemistry from Northwestern University (Evanston, IL), did postdoctoral work in Aarhus and Munich, and taught chemistry at New York University (New York) from 1970 until 1974. Later he served as a visiting professor with the National Sciences Research Council at Odense University (Odense, Denmark). Currently, Ratner is Morrison Professor of Chemistry at Northwestern University, where he served as department chair from 1988 until 1991 and as associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from 1980 until 1984. He was nominated to the National Academy of Sciences in 2002.