News from Chemistry, Spring 2001

by Judith P. Klinman, Chemistry Department Chair

As the first six months of my term as Chair draw to a close, people continue to ask me why I decided to take on the job. My answer changes each time I am asked, but two issues emerge: to increase the viability and visibility of the biology/chemistry interface within the College, and to increase the role for women in chemistry.

The issue of the biology/chemistry interface has taken on an exciting momentum. Mike Marletta from the University of Michigan will be joining the faculty in July 2001. The campus is very fortunate to have been able to lure Dr. Marletta from Michigan. He is a world leader in the field of protein structure/function and has made seminal contributions to our understanding of how the cellular messenger nitric oxide is synthesized and how it exerts its mode of action. Given the interdisciplinary nature of Dr. Marletta's research interest, it is fitting that he will also have joint appointments in the Molecular and Cell Biology (MCB) Department here as well as in the Cell and Molecular Pharmacology Department at UCSF. Dr. Marletta will be housed in a fully renovated laboratory in Lewis Hall, which will be the new home for the biophysical chemists who must vacate Hildebrand Hall for the ongoing seismic work. Jay Groves, currently a Division Director's Fellow at LBNL, will also be taking up residence in Lewis Hall in July of this year as an Assistant Professor. Dr. Groves will be working at the interface of biophysical chemistry and material science, using new and clever means to organize the components of membranes and study how this organization affects membrane and cell function.


The College bade a fond farewell to Professor Brad Moore and his wife Penny, before they left for Ohio State, where he is Vice President for Research.

 


In the area of structural biology, the Advanced Light Source at LBNL is helping to make Berkeley the leading center for X-ray crystallographic studies of biological macromolecules. Our already strong and growing faculty in structural biology, within both chemistry and MCB, will ultimately be housed in a new facility to be constructed on the site of Stanley Hall, across from Latimer Hall and targeted for occupancy in 2005. Jennifer Doudna, who performed pioneering work on the structure and function of RNA, will be leaving Yale and joining the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at Berkeley. She will be setting up a joint laboratory with Jamie Cate, who is leaving MIT to assume a joint position with Chemistry and MCB in July 2001. As a postdoctoral fellow with Harry Noller at UCSC, Dr. Cate reported (along with the Steitz group at Yale) the first three-dimensional "picture" of the ribosome. He will continue his groundbreaking studies of ribosome structure at Berkeley.


Professor Sung Hou-Kim (left) received a major grant to determine the structure of proteins

In the area of protein structure determination, Sung Hou-Kim has just received one of seven grants from the National Institute of General Medical Science to solve the structures of thousands of proteins over the next decade. To quote from Dr. Marvin Cassman, NIGMS Director, "This project can be viewed as an inventory of all the protein structure families that exist in nature." Dr. Kim has been awarded $4 million dollars for the initial phases of this work at Berkeley.

 


Professor Graham Fleming (right) is the Berkeley Director of the new California Initiative in Science and Technology, based at Berkeley, UCSF and UCSC.

The Berkeley campus has just learned that, along with UCSF and UCSC, it will be funded from Governor Davis' new initiative in science, for our program at the interface of chemistry, biology and engineering. This initiative will provide a large chunk of money for construction of the Stanley Hall replacement building and will lead to a joint Institute with UCSF. Graham Fleming, who played a major role in securing funds from the Governor's initiative, will be the Berkeley Director of the new Institute, serving as Co-Director with David Agard of UCSF.


The role of women in Chemistry appears to be a thorny, and more difficult, one to resolve. MIT has taken a leadership role among academic institutions by analyzing the treatment and participation of women in science and concluding that women have been under-represented, underpaid and kept from full access to resources at their own institution. This finding, referred to as the MIT report, has stirred up a lot of interest. Nancy Hopkins, who chaired the committee at MIT, spoke in Berkeley at the end of January. Shortly thereafter, a meeting of university presidents at MIT will take place, funded by the Ford Foundation, to examine the situation for women in science and engineering at institutions of higher learning. I will be accompanying Chancellor Berdahl to this meeting and will comment further in the next issue.


The year 2000 has seen a significant change in status for a number of our faculty. John Arnold and Martin Head-Gordon have both been promoted from Associate to Full Professor. Dirk Trauner, a new Assistant Professor with interests in synthetic organic chemistry, has arrived and is well on his way to establishing a large and vigorous research group.

John Arnold (left) and Martin Head-Gordon (right) were recently promoted to the rank of Full Professor.

 


A large number of our faculty have been lauded for their accomplishments and contributions to science in the year 2000. Paul Alivisatos was made a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS); Robert Bergman was also elected Fellow of the AAAS and received the American Institute of Chemists Chemical Pioneer Award; Carolyn Bertozzi received a Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering; Kristie Boering received a Packard Award; Jonathan Ellman received an ACS Arthur Cope Scholar Award; Graham Fleming received the ACS Harrison Howe Award; Darleane Hoffman was elected to the Women in Technology Hall of Fame; Hal Johnston was feted with an ACS Festschrift; Sung-Hou Kim was awarded the KAST prize; Julie Leary was awarded the Biemann Medal for Mass Spectrometry; Jeff Long received a Hellman Family Faculty Award and a Dreyfus Teacher Scholar Award; Rich Mathies was awarded an NIH Merit Award; Bill Miller is currently a Chancellor's Professor and Kenneth Pitzer Distinguished Professor and was a Visiting Emerson Distinguished Professor at Emory University; Dan Neumark was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; Rich Saykally currently holds the Class of 1932 Chair and received the Langmuir Prize; Gabor Somorjai was awarded the ACS Pauling Medal; Peter Vollhardt was given La Medaille de l'Université from the University of Aix-Marseille; and Peidong Yang received the 3M Untenured Faculty Award.

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