News from Chemistry, Fall 1998

by Paul A. Bartlett, Chemistry Department Chair

  As I move into the middle stretch of my chairmanship, it is beginning to dawn on me that the job will never become "routine." This past year has brought the usual share of new colleagues, new recognition, new facilities, and, of course, new challenges to our department.

At the beginning of July, we welcomed two new assistant professors to the department, Dr. Kristie Boering and Dr. David MacMillan. Kristie's interest is atmospheric chemistry, and her appointment is joint with the Department of Geology and Geophysics. David's research is in organic synthesis, for which he will immediately have his hands full, given the composition of the entering class of graduate students this year. We are also looking forward to the arrival later in the year of Professor Heino Nitsche, who will establish a multidisciplinary group in heavy element chemistry and the environmental behavior of actinides. Heino has been director of the Forschungszentrum Rossendorf near Dresden for the past five years, although he is well acquainted with Berkeley and LBNL.

Although Assistant Professor Jim Leahy has left the department, he has remained in the Bay Area to take a position at MetaXen, a Bay Area biotech company. The department and the scientific and academic communities all suffered a great loss this past December with the death of Kenneth Pitzer. Although he "retired" in 1984, Ken remained a cherished member of the department; his insight and advice are greatly missed.

Members of the department continue to be recognized for their scientific accomplishments. Since the last tally, given in the 1997 newsjournal, Gabor Somorjai has been awarded the prestigious Wolf Prize, as detailed in the April Newsletter.

Gabor Somorjai.

David Chandler

David Chandler will receive one of theoretical chemistry's highest honors this year as the Hirschfelder Lecturer at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Ken Raymond received the Basolo Medal from Northwestern, and Bill Miller the Spiers Medal from the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Remsen Award from the ACS. Angelica Stacy will be honored by the ACS with the 1998 James Flack Norris Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Teaching of Chemistry.

Angy Stacy with some of her teaching props.

Northwestern gave an honorary D.Sc. degree to Hal Johnston last June. Bob Bergman won a Guggenheim Fellowship to support his sabbatical leave, while Jim McCusker was awarded one of the prestigious Alfred P. Sloan Fellowships. The campus has also recognized the accomplishments and promise of our colleagues: Alex Pines has been named to the endowed chair recently established in honor of Glenn T. Seaborg, Bill Miller has received a Chancellor's Distinguished Professorship and Ron Cohen a Regents Junior Faculty Fellowship, and Carolyn Bertozzi will occupy the Hildebrand Chair for the next two years.

While the external appearance of the College hasn't changed since the completion of Tan Hall, the internal renovations to prepare the laboratories for Jean Frechet's and Graham Fleming's groups (7th floor of Latimer and B-level of Hildebrand, respectively) have just been completed. These state-of-the-art facilities, as well as the new labs in Tan Hall, are a source of pride and a marked improvement in our physical plant. However, their juxtaposition with the older facilities in the College dramatizes how much more needs to be done to bring our labs up to current standards.

Fleming's new labs on B level of Hildebrand Hall.

A key event in the department this past January was a symposium in honor of Professor Kenneth Sauer and Dr. Melvin Klein. Their years of research in biophysical chemistry were celebrated by many friends and former coworkers in a two-day scientific meeting. An international slate of speakers and keynote addresses from Gerald Babcock (MSU) and Erwin Hahn (UCB) demonstrated dramatically the richness of the research areas they opened up.

We have had a very successful year in graduate recruiting, with no fewer than 87 graduate students in the incoming class this fall. Slightly more than half of them are nominally "synthetic" versus "physical" chemists; no fewer than 11 will arrive with external fellowships, including 5 NSF predoctoral fellows in the synthetic program and 3 in the physical.

After last year's turnover in the department office, Rebecca Pauling, Olivia Hsieh, and Lorelei Cordova have been settling into their roles in academic personnel, payroll supervision, and student affairs, respectively. We have two new faces in 419: Nathalie LaForest has joined the office to help with departmental seminars and some accounting duties, and Donna Craig has assumed the graduate affairs position that Beth Murphy left last year.

We look forward to your visit next time you are in town. Stop by and take a look at how the department is shaping up.