News from Chemical Engineering, Fall 1997

by Harvey W. Blanch, Chemical Engineering Department Chair

  hen Simon Goren finished his term as departmental chair in June this year, he was very willing to give me advice on a number of issues. In fact, he appeared to be somewhat delighted to assume this role. I am only now understanding why being former department chair has a great appeal! I am now even more appreciative of Simon's stewardship of the department and his willingness to shield us from much of the administrative responsibility that the department faces. Simon has taken a sabbatical leave and will be spending part of this in Australia and New Zealand. We are all envious of his opportunity to explore new research areas and the outback at the same time.


The changing of the guard: Goren and Blanch

This summer marked the completion of our move into Tan Hall. The Department now occupies research space from the subbasement to the fourth floor. Jay Keasling's research group has moved to remodeled space adjacent to Tan Hall on the fourth floor of Latimer Hall. It was a pleasure for many of us to have air-conditioned laboratories for the first time this summer. Although we thought that this would eliminate some complaints from our students that room temperature was too high in summer to conduct experiments, the HVAC in Tan has responded with its own version of El Nio, and like most new buildings will require some fine tuning.

We were fortunate last semester in recruiting a new faculty member, David Schaffer, who will join the department in 1999, after completing post-doctoral research at Scripps next year. David is currently completing his doctorate at MIT in the area of gene therapy, in particular examining receptor-mediated DNA transport into cells. David's research in bioengineering will provide a strong link between our department and the joint UCB/UCSF Bioengineering program, which is now seeking departmental status. Gene therapy could become an important new tool to address genetically-based and viral diseases, and contributions from chemical engineering will be an important component to its success. We have also initiated a search for a new faculty position, and we anticipate interviewing candidates with research interests broadly directed at materials design, synthesis and analysis next semester.

Congratulations are due. In July this year, David Graves and Arup Chakraborty were promoted to Full Professor. Last fall, Arup received the AIChE's Colburn Award, recognizing outstanding research contributions in a scholar under the age of 35. Arup joins several of our older faculty who also received this award. An award recognizing John Prausnitz's sustained contributions to molecular thermodynamics has been established by the International Conference on Properties and Phase Equilibria for Product and Process Design, the Annual John M. Prausnitz Award.


Prof. John Prausnitz

John was also the 1997 Katz Lecturer at the University of Michigan. During this fall and the coming spring, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the department. Charlie Wilke is writing a history of the early days of the department. There will be a reception at the fall AIChE meeting in Los Angeles to kick off the celebration, and the Berkeley Lectures next spring will be dedicated to the founding of the department. Professor John Seinfeld of Caltech will be the 1998 Berkeley Lecturer. John's research on atmospheric reactions, aerosol science and the physics of air pollution has been important in our understanding of the various contributions different sources make to air quality. We look forward to a lively set of lectures.

This semester Professor Terry Papoutsakis (Northwestern University) delivered the second Bayer Lecture in Biochemical Engineering, discussing the engineering aspects of cell culture for cell and gene therapies, particularly for hematopoietic cell transplantations. Terry's lucid presentation led us through the complexities involved in cultivation of tissues and cell populations that must retain certain characteristics for therapeutic use. Once again, we see opportunities for transport and kinetics to elucidate biological function.

Of note to all our recent graduate students will be Ferne Kasarda's retirement at the end of this semester. Ferne has been in the graduate office for the past eleven years, and has been the first point of contact for all our prospective graduate students. She plays many roles in the graduate office, from assisting new students with housing to dealing with the complexity of Berkeley's graduate division. Ferne has been the first person many students have turned to for support, on both academic and other issues. All of us, faculty and students alike, will miss her warmth and humor. We are fortunate that Aileen Harris, currently in the payroll office, will succeed Ferne. We all wish Ferne an enjoyable and well-deserved extended vacation, as I am sure Ferne will not simply retire.

vamp the sophomore organic laboratories and to spearhead the expanding Environmental Health and Safety program in the College; Julie will continue her research in mass spectrometry and leadership of the College analytical facilities.