It's not everyday a Nobel Prize-winning chemist visits UT to showcase a play.
Then again, Roald Hoffmann is no ordinary chemist.
"He's had a parallel career as a poet, recently a playwright and an essayist," Jeffrey Kovac, a chemistry professor and the director of the College Scholars Program, said.
Kovac edited "Roald Hoffmann on the Philosophy, Art and Science of Chemistry," a volume of Hoffmann's work that pulled together around 30 of his essays on the broader context of chemistry. The book was published in 2011 and represents just a portion of Hoffmann's work.
His relationship with Hoffmann has brought the 1981 Nobel Prize winner to UT this weekend. In the Carousel Theatre at 2 p.m. Saturday, local professional talent will perform "Something that Belongs to You," Hoffmann's most recent play that reflects his own past as a survivor of the Holocaust.
Kovac said Hoffmann and his mother were hidden in an attic from the Nazis when he was 5 years old. The play will provide the audience an interesting perspective on part of one of the world's most historical events.
"I think they will get a firsthand account of what it was like to be there in that situation," Kovac said. "Spending time in a dugout cellar for maybe a day or two with no light, afraid that you were gonna be caught and executed, being in an attic where you couldn't talk ...
"You couldn't go out and play, a 5-year-old boy watching the kids in the schoolyard playing soccer ... unable to go out and join them, having to keep quiet, having to be amused with very little, no toys, making up games with his mother."
Desta Bume, junior in College Scholars who is studying the molecular causes of disease, plans to attend the event and is particularly interested in learning from a professional chemist.
"When you think of scientists and chemists, you think of a lab rat ... not of those involved in arts and sciences," he said. "Looking at that perspective, I'm really looking forward to ... see where he's coming from.
"I've never met a Nobel Prize Winner before."
Hoffmann shared the 1981 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Kenichi Fukui for his work in on theoretical analysis of chemical reactions. Kovac, who considers Hoffmann a personal friend, indicated that the accomplished scientist has never been fazed by his own achievements.
"He's just a humble man, despite having won every award in chemistry," Kovac said.
After the performance, Hoffmann will offer a Q-and-A session.
"What Dr. Hoffmann is really trying to do is show that in the worst of circumstances, people have to make choices, moral choices, and some people make very difficult choices ... " Kovac said. "There were good people and there were bad people and people can rise to the occasion to be good even in the worst of circumstances."
For more information on Hoffmann and his work, which includes several published books of essays and poems, visit roaldhoffmann.com.