News from Chemistry, Spring 1999

by Paul A. Bartlett, Chemistry Department Chair

his fall, at the "Chairs and Deans Retreat" held by administration each year, I was asked, as a (now) "experienced" chair, to give an overview of the issues that one faces in this position and, for the benefit of the new recruits, what to look out for. I suggested that the first 20 minutes of "Saving Private Ryan" might convey the key issues more dramatically.

Each year offers its own set of unusual events, but by any measure, the past one was particularly exciting, with a number of developments of major significance for the department. As described elsewhere in this News Journal, plans for earthquake stabilization of Hildebrand and Latimer Halls present us with the prospect of major disruption in our laboratories, but at the same time provide an opportunity for badly needed deferred maintenance, renovation, and improvements. The announcement of funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which has a relatively short timeline, jolted us into action in working out a sensible plan for moving research groups around and reconfiguring teaching laboratories and other facilities so that the construction work can be carried out efficiently. What will sustain us through this period of disruption is a broadly supported vision for how our physical space will be configured after all construction phases are completed ("in the next millennium"...).

Chancellor Berdahl, Dean Bell, Vice Chancellor Ed Denton and Vice Provost Nick Jewell, touring college labs and facilities as part of a presentation on seismic safety and needed renovations.

A major challenge in implementing this vision will be funding the renovations and improvements, beyond those required simply for earthquake stabilization. In this regard, we were fortunate to receive a grant from the National Institutes of Health which, when coupled with matching funds from the College and University, will provide $2.5M toward the renovation of laboratories in synthetic and bioorganic chemistry in Latimer Hall. The NIH funding is just a start, but it will help us launch a new initiative within the department, the "Center for New Directions in Organic Synthesis." This organization will capitalize on the important role that synthesis continues to play in modern chemistry, and it will facilitate interactions among groups and with industrial and other partners outside the University. We are also considering the possibility of launching initiatives in other subdisciplines as well, including theoretical chemistry and imaging.

One of the greatest craters on the Omaha Beach of last year resulted from Peter Schultz's announcement that he is going to leave Berkeley and accept an offer from the Novartis Foundation to create and lead an institute devoted to functional genomics to be built in San Diego, with a joint appointment at the Scripps Research Institute. Ray Stevens will also move his research group to Scripps at the end of the academic year. Their departure will be a significant loss for the department and many other groups in the University and at LBNL. Last year saw its share of positive announcements, however. Carolyn Bertozzi received the ACS Arthur C. Cope Scholar award and a Beckman Young Investigator Award. In addition, David MacMillan, who just joined us this summer, received a Boehringer-Ingelheim New Faculty Award. Don Tilley was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Rich Saykally will receive the 1999 Pittsburgh Spectroscopy Award.

Professor Don Tilley

Following up the symposium last winter in honor of Ken Sauer and Mel Klein was a festschrift from the Journal of Physical Chemistry B published in October. We are happy in many ways to also announce Bill Miller's appointment to the newly created Kenneth S. Pitzer Distinguished Professorship, the first Distinguished Chair within the Department. The Professorship was made possible by a very generous gift from the Pitzer Family Foundation, as well as by donations from many of Ken's former students and colleagues.

Professor William Miller, the first holder of the Pitzer Distinguished Professorship.

More recently, Doug Gin was notified he will receive a 1999 Sloan Fellowship. Hal Johnston received the Roger Revelle Medal at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union, honoring his contributions to the science of climate dynamics. The Berkeley Academic Senate has bestowed the Clark Kerr Award for Distinguished Leadership in Higher Education, one of its highest honors, on our former colleague, Yuan T. Lee. The award will be presented at a ceremony and dinner at the end of February.

I am pleased, too, to announce the Departmental Teaching Awards for the past year, which were presented to: Joshua Armstrong, Kendra Bowman, Dana Caulder, Chris Caylor, Joanne Cho, Karen Frindell, Michael Furlanetto, Ruben Gonzales, Andrew Souers, Troy Van Voorhis, Juanita Wickham, Katherine Winans, and Isaac Yang.

The upheavals and renovations that the research groups are about to experience were mirrored in a minor way within the department office this past year. Teresa Hardy recently joined us as payroll assistant, and Laura York replaces Lorelei Cordova as student affairs officer. The physical configuration of 419 Latimer has changed as well, with better separation of the areas devoted to graduate affairs and to academic personnel.