Prof. Benedetta Mennucci Awarded ERC Advanced Grant

Benedetta Mennnucci

We are very pleased to congratulate Gaussian collaborator Benedetta Mennucci, Professor of Chemistry at the Università di Pisa on being awarded an Advanced Grant by the European Research Council. Prof. Mennucci was one of only 11 Italian researchers, and the only chemist, to receive this great honor this year. Below is a translation of the University’s official announcement:


Professor Benedetta Mennucci was awarded a 2.4 million euro Advanced Grant from the European Research Council for her research program LIFETimeS which stands for “Light-induced function: from excitation to signal through time and space.” Mennucci is a member of the department of Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry at the University of Pisa, and she is the sole Italian chemist among the 269 funded projects and is one of only 11 Italian recipients in all fields.

The LIFETimeS project will last 5 years. Its objective is developing new computational methods for modeling the biological functions of photo responsive proteins in plants and bacteria. The research is designed to start from the apparently simple process of light absorption in organisms and move to an understanding of the complex biological mechanisms activated by it, mechanisms which are fundamental to life itself.

Professor Mennucci and her group will model these processes on the computer. She explains their general approach as follows: “The many diverse molecular mechanisms involved in the perception, use and responses to light very often arise from a common initial event: an electronic excitation localized on one or a few interacting molecules within a protein. The energy involved in the molecular excitation process quickly generates other transformation within the organic system that are ultimately connected to biological functions. Computer modeling of this cascade of processes—essentially a temporal and spatial domino effect—is the precise goal of the LIFETimeS project. We will achieve it by developing a new simulation approach based on the integration of very accurate quantum chemistry methods and extensions of other models that, while more approximate at the atomic scale, are capable of treating the relatively slower dynamics of the protein as a whole and its environment. The accuracy and comprehensiveness of the resulting simulations will represent a turning point in the understanding of the molecular mechanisms that regulate photo-activated biological functions, enabling us to discover ways to use light to affect them non-invasively and with high precision, an unprecedented result.”

Page last updated: 12 April 2018.