News from Chemistry, Fall 1999

by Paul A. Bartlett, Chemistry Department Chair

s I start the fourth - and last! - year of my chairmanship, I'm beginning to feel like I'm writing an annual "Christmas letter"....

Two new colleagues have just joined the Department. Assistant Professor Peidong Yang arrived this summer from a postdoctoral position at UCSB. He will initiate a research program in inorganic materials and nanomaterials, further increasing the connections between inorganic chemistry and the materials sciences. He has hit the ground running, and I'm pleased to announce that he already received a Dreyfus New Faculty Award! In a new departure for us, Associate Professor Kevan Shokat (Ph.D. 1991) will take on a joint appointment in Chemistry in addition to his primary affiliation with the Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology at UCSF. At the same time, Jonathan Ellman, who was promoted to full Professor effective July 1, will have a reciprocal relationship with UCSF, so our ties with the biological sciences continue to strengthen as well. The same ecumenical spirit is reflected in Paul Alivisatos' joint appointment in the Department of Materials Science and Mineral Engineering.


Newly tenured Associate Professor Carolyn Bertozzi was also honored with a MacArthur Fellowship.


Since the last News Journal, there has been a bumper crop of awards and honors for faculty in the Department. And this year the column is particularly difficult to write because I seem to be updating this section almost daily as this issue goes to press! One of the most dramatic announcements was that of Carolyn Bertozzi's MacArthur Fellowship, which contributed to widespread excitement on campus (Berkeley faculty won three this year!) and garnered prominent billing in the San Francisco Chronicle, replete with all the monetary details. This news came on the heels of her Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award and shortly before her promotion to Associate Professor became effective. David MacMillan received a Johnson & Johnson Focused Giving Grant, which is broadly intended to foster biomedical research. Both Ron Cohen and Jeff Long received awards from the Hellman Family Fund, and Doug Gin was honored with a fellowship from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.


Darleane Hoffman (r), recent Priestley medal winner, and Heino Nitsche (l), along with several chemistry graduate students, were members of the group at LBNL this June that discovered elements 118 and 116, new elements at the edge of the long-predicted 'island of stability' in the transactinide section of the periodic table.


No fewer than seven major American Chemical Society awards have recently been announced for our faculty: Darleane Hoffman has just received the ACS' highest award, the Priestley Medal, at the fall national meeting. Gabor Somorjai's enormous contributions to the field of catalysis will be recognized by the Award for Creative Research in Catalysis. Richar d Saykally's election to the National Academy of Sciences was announced this spring, and he will also receive the prestigious 2000 Irving Langmuir Award, which is sponsored in alternating years by the ACS and the American Physical Society (this award also came to Berkeley - to Alex Pines - the last time it was handed out by the ACS). Graham Fleming will receive the 55th Harrison Howe Award of the Rochester Section, which is intended "to recognize and encourage outstanding contributions to chemistry defined in its broadest sense." Peter Vollhardt will receive the Edward Leete Award for Teaching and Research in Organic Chemistry, which is a tribute both to his recent research as well as the significant impact his textbook has had on teaching in organic chemistry. And fellow organic chemist Jonathan Ellman will receive the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award.


Professor Rich Saykally was elected to the NAS and won the Langmuir Award for 2000.


Jean Fréchet will receive the ACS Award in Polymer Chemistry, having recently shared, with Hiroshi Ito and C. Grant Willson (Ph.D. 1973), the 1999 Kosar Memorial Award from the Society for Imaging Science and Technology for the invention of chemically amplified resists. Alex Pines received the F. A. Cotton Medal at Texas A&M this spring. I am also pleased to note that David Chandler, Arup Chakraborty, and Daniel Neumark are all Miller Professors this year.

A significant event honoring another one of our colleagues, but of a more somber tone, was held jointly by the University and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in March, when a memorial celebration for Glenn Seaborg was held in Zellerbach Hall. His memory continues to motivate those who carry on the search for new elements, and, indeed, added a poignancy to the announcement in June that the first two elements in the long-predicted 'island of stability,' 118 and its decay product 116, had been discovered by an LBNL team including Darleane Hoffman, Heino Nitsche and a number of Chemistry graduate students.

Previous issues of the News Journal have made everyone aware of the looming cataclysm of renovations, relocations, and reconstructions within the College. They are beginning! First to be relocated are some of the undergraduate laboratories from Lewis Hall, with condensation into the second and third floors of Latimer. Although forcing all the undergraduate labs into fewer rooms is bringing some logistical challenges, it also provided the stimulus for modernizing and revamping them. The most dramatic improvements are contemplated for the upper division laboratory courses, which will become more broadly focused, modular, and more flexible in experiment selection.


Workmen installing new lab benches for the modern undergraduate labs being created in Latimer Hall, permitting research groups to move into new labs in Lewis, which lets groups move out of Hildebrand...etc...


Soon to come will be renovation of the first and third floors of Lewis, and of the basement in Gilman, to accommodate faculty and research groups that have to vacate the tower of Hildebrand ahead of the seismic work. 'Decanting' and 'surging' are now common words in our vocabulary as we discuss the migrations that are anticipated.

We are also fortunate in having a launching pad for the renovations program in bioorganic chemistry. An NIH facilities grant, amplified by significant matching support from the University and the College, will fund the initial phase of laboratory modernization among the bioorganic faculty. These renovations will take place concomitantly with the seismic work, necessitating moves of research groups within Latimer Hall. In all, more than a third of all the research groups in the College of Chemistry will be shifting locations! As 'seismic czar' this past year, Clayton Heathcock has done an outstanding job in sorting out the logistics and finding solutions to the multivariate equations that these projects represent. This experience will provide a good foundation for his new job as Dean of the College!

Some stability in the midst of this upheaval is now seen within the Department office, and I believe this is the first newsletter when I have not introduced a new name among the staff.