News from Chemical Engineering, Fall 1999

by Harvey W. Blanch, Chemical Engineering Department Chair

his semester we are ready to see changes in Gilman Hall, as the first stages of the College's earthquake retrofitting program get under way. The B level of Gilman, which houses the student machine shop and research laboratories, will be converted to the Center for Theoretical Chemistry, with faculty and students from Chemistry and Chemical Engineering working together. Our undergraduate unit operations laboratory will remain in the basement level, with the new Transport Laboratory to be located on the first floor of Gilman. It will be a significant improvement for the B level, and we look forward to greatly enhanced interactions with the physical chemistry faculty.


A symposium was held at Berkeley this summer to celebrate Morton Denn's 60th birthday.


We also say farewell to two of our faculty members this semester. Morton Denn, who joined the department in 1980, is retiring and will assume the position of Director of the Benjamin Levich Institute for Physicochemical Hydrodynamics at the City College of New York. The Department will miss Mort's many contributions to teaching and research and his lively interactions with faculty and students. Mort will be recognized at the November AIChE meeting; he will be the 1999 AIChE Institute Lecturer. Fred Vorhis will be teaching this fall semester and then retire to Inkom in Southeast Idaho. Fred has served as coordinator and instructor for the unit operations laboratory course for many years and taught the process design course to a number of generations of our undergraduates. While wishing him well in his new western home, we will miss the vital role he has played since 1983 in providing our undergraduates (and, on occasion, the faculty!) with his industrial perspective.

We welcome David Schaffer to the faculty. David completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Salk Institute in the area of his research program at Berkeley, gene delivery for gene therapy, and has now assumed his research and teaching responsibilities. He is already supervising two graduate students and is quickly getting his laboratory established. He received the Regent's Junior Faculty Fellowship this past summer--congratulations. Our other new Assistant Professor, Alex Katz, will join the Department in January after completing postdoctoral studies in Strasbourg with Nobel Laureate Jean-Marie Lehn.


Professor John Newman was elected to the NAE.


Congratulations, too, to John Newman, who was elected to the National Academy of Engineering for his "contributions to applied electrochemistry and for their reduction to practice through advances in electrochemical engineering." Other faculty honors include Elton Cairns, who has been elected as President of the Electrochemical Society for 1999-2000. Arup Chakraborty will be the Vaughan Lecturer at Caltech this year.


Blanch with Professor Rakesh Jain from MIT, who delivered the Berkeley Lectures in Chemical Engineering last spring.


A new development in the Department is the establishment of the Center for Catalysis. This has been spearheaded by Enrique Iglesia, and will serve as a focus for catalysis and reaction engineering research in both the chemical engineering and chemistry departments. The Center will provide support for equipment and permit the participating faculty to explore new areas of research in catalysis by providing student fellowships. An active interaction with industry is anticipated, and an industrial advisory board will be established to help guide the research directions and the development of the Center. Assisting Enrique in this endeavor is Alex Bell, having stepped down after serving five years as Dean of the College. We look forward to having Alex join the Department again full time, and to the expansion of his research activities. Alex will first take a year-long sabbatical, a well-deserved opportunity to forget the burdens of administration and to work more closely with his graduate students on research projects.

Finally, our AIChE student chapter hosted the Western Regional AIChE Student Chapter Conference last semester. The student officers learned first hand of the logistics of fundraising for the event and organizing the accommodations, speakers and poster sessions. The group did a superb job, impressing industrial and faculty participants alike, as well as exposing students from other campuses to the sights of Telegraph Avenue.


Fourteen schools from California, Nevada and Arizona came to UC Berkeley for the 1999 Western Regional Student AIChE conference in April. Pictured are Madhav Kapadia, last year's president of the Berkeley AIChE chapter, Prof. Susan Muller, Carlos Nuila (B.S. '78, ChemE) and Craig McDonald from Dow Chemical, and Kelly Lin, last year's vice-president. The conference's aim was to stimulate interest in chemical engineering and provide a forum for ambitious undergraduates to present research papers and design work.