Marcin Stępień_fot. Magdalena Wiśniewska-Krasińska_Archiwum FNP

Professor Marcin Stępień from the Faculty of Chemistry of the University of Wrocław received the 2023 FNP Prize in the field of chemical and materials sciences for designing and obtaining new aromatic compounds with unique structures and properties.

Marcin Stępień was born in 1977 in Wrocław. He completed his Master’s degree in 1999 at the Faculty of Chemistry, University of Wrocław. He received his PhD (2003) and habilitation (2010), both with distinction, at the same university and was awarded a titular professorship in 2017. In 2005–2006, he completed a 13-month-long postdoctoral stay at the University of Texas, Austin, USA. During his academic career, he closely collaborated with researchers from Spain, France, Germany, Korea, China, India, and the USA,  publishing more than 30 collaborative international research articles. He is the author and co-author of more than 90 publications and the recipient of many prestigious awards and scientific scholarships including the START scholarship and the POWROTY/HOMING and TEAM programmes of the Foundation for Polish Science, awards from the Minister of Education, the “Stay with Us” scholarship of the Polityka weekly, the Włodzimierz Kołos Medal, and the Maria Skłodowska-Curie Prize of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Since 2022, Marcin Stępień has been a member of the advisory board of Angewandte Chemie, one of the most important chemistry journals. He is the Head of the Department of Organic Chemistry and Chairman of the Discipline Council at the Faculty of Chemistry, University of Wrocław. He also leads the Organic Synthesis Team (Stępień Lab), which researches mostly functional aromatic compounds. The team led by Prof. Stępień seeks to create new aromatic hydrocarbons and heterocyclic compounds with unprecedented structures and physical and chemical properties.

Professor Marcin Stępień received the 2023 FNP Prize in the field of chemical and materials sciences for designing and obtaining new aromatic compounds with unique structures and properties.

Scholars first used the term “aromaticity” in the second half of the nineteenth century to refer to a group of organic compounds characterized by several unusual features, one of which was a very distinctive odor. Today, aromaticity describes an extremely large class of chemical compounds that consist of molecules containing rings of atoms in their structure that are specifically stabilized by the presence of delocalized chemical bonds. Delocalization means that more than two atoms share electrons forming the bond, leading to a “blurring” of the bond pattern in the molecule. The presence of a delocalized bond system in an aromatic compound can give rise to useful properties, for example, the absorption and emission of light or the ability to carry or store charge. Today, aromatic compounds are of fundamental importance in almost all areas of organic chemistry. Among other applications, the industry uses them as dyes, semiconducting materials, catalysts, and drugs.

Professor Marcin Stępień is an internationally recognized expert who shapes the field of aromatic compounds. His research at the crossroads of organic synthesis, physical organic chemistry, and theoretical chemistry led him to design and synthesize new aromatic and anti-aromatic molecules with unique structures and unusual, often three-dimensional shapes. These achievements have fundamental significance and open new possibilities for applying these compounds as functional organic materials. Some aromatic compounds synthesized in the Stępień Lab mimic graphene fragments in their structure and which, thanks to the presence of atypical rings and atoms other than carbon, exhibit unique optical, and electron properties. Prof. Stępień’s molecules may inspire the search for new organic materials, particularly functional dyes. Such materials may find a variety of applications, including LED devices and photovoltaics, but also in medical diagnostics and phototherapy.

Prof. Marcin Stępień’s research was not only a successful search for new, effective methods to synthesize compounds with non-trivial architecture and often significant spatial deformations. His work also reveals how these unusual three-dimensional shapes of molecules affect their fundamental physical and chemical properties, such as aromaticity, absorption, fluorescence, motion, and physical expression of chirality. These achievements significantly increase our understanding of the relationship between molecular structure and properties.


Fot. Magdalena Wiśniewska-Krasińska