News from Chemical Engineering, Fall 1998

by Harvey W. Blanchh, Chemical Engineering Department Chair

  his spring brought a number of important developments for the department. Two of our younger faculty, Roya Maboudian and Jay Keasling, were promoted from Assistant to Associate Professors with tenure. Congratulations to both, and we look forward to their continued research and teaching contributions. Roya will have an extra set of duties as the Department's first "mom," with the birth of her daughter, Samira, at the end of the spring semester.

We also have a new addition to our faculty. Alex Katz will join the department next year, following a postdoctoral fellowship in France. Alex is now completing his doctoral studies under Professor Mark Davis at Caltech, working on molecular imprinting of polymers and silicas to develop new materials with catalytic function. This exciting area will complement research activities in both the chemical engineering and chemistry departments.

Professor Emeritus and former department chair Charles Wilke and Chair Blanch enjoying the 50th Anniversary of Chemical Engineering reception.

The department also celebrated the 50th Anniversary of its founding on April 23rd. The venue was this year's Berkeley Lecture in Chemical Engineering, given by Professor John Seinfeld, Chair of the Division of Engineering and Applied Science at Caltech. John's two lectures on atmospheric chemistry and climate provided very interesting and relevant examples of the coupling of transport and reaction on aerosols and the effect of chemistry on air quality and climate.

Former chair Jud King sharing a laugh with Professor Emeritus Donald Hanson at the reception.

Following the second lecture, a reception at The Faculty Club was held in celebration of the founding of chemical engineering at Berkeley. Charles Wilke, one of the department's founding fathers, described the early years. John Prausnitz then spoke on the growth of the department over the next several decades. Dean Alex Bell illustrated the strong influence that chemistry has had on the development of chemical engineering at Berkeley, and Jud King, Senior Vice President systemwide, gave us some provocative predictions for the future of professional degrees and the impact these would have on chemical engineering education. It was especially gratifying to see so many alumni, staff and friends of the department present.

Our graduate students also participated in the 50th Anniversary with a telethon, contacting our graduate alumni for support for graduate student fellowships. This was very successful, and we will inaugurate an Alumni Fellowship, to be awarded to a student in this year's entering graduate class. The department is very grateful to the many alumni who contributed to this effort. Many of the graduate students who participated commented on the interesting conversations they had with our Ph.D. and M.S. alumni.

Our special 50th anniversary mail appeal to our undergraduate alumni was also successful, generating precious funds to help us renovate our unit operations laboratory.

Old equipment in the undergraduate unit operations laboratory, which can now be upgraded with generous donations from alumni during our recent fundraising appeal for the 50th Anniversary of the department.

At the AIChE annual meeting last fall, the departmental reception provided the venue for the kickoff celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the department. We were all very pleased to have so many of our alumni, academic colleagues and friends attend. This year, we will also have cause to celebrate at this year's AIChE annual meeting. The departmental reception on Tuesday, November 17, will recognize Mort Denn's receipt of this year's AIChE Lewis Award in Chemical Engineering Education. Mort has had a profound influence on both undergraduate education through his many textbooks, and at the graduate level through his research publications, which have defined new directions in polymer processing and fluid mechanics. John Prausnitz celebrated his 70th birthday this year, and there will be a special symposium at the meeting to recognize his remarkable 40-plus years of research and teaching accomplishments. I hope you can join us at the reception and congratulate both John and Mort. We will also congratulate David Graves as the recipient of the Thinker Award from the Tegal Corporation, and Arup Chakraborty's receipt of a Miller Professorship for Spring Semester 2000.

Three very happy Professors: Blanch, Clark, and Keasling, smiling about the future time to be spent in the lab, of course.

Finally, this fall semester Arup Chakraborty will take over duties from Doug Clark as vice chair of the department. We are all very grateful to Doug for his four years of service, but he will still be kept very busy. The National Science Foundation has funded an Engineering Research Center on marine biotechnology, as a joint Berkeley/University of Hawaii center, with Doug Clark, Jay Keasling, Clay Radke, Norm Pace (Plant & Microbial Biology) and myself as participating faculty. This ERC will receive over $2 million annually from NSF, with matching industrial support. It promises to develop a new area in biotechnology, with a focus on high value marine bioproducts.