News from Chemical Engineering, Fall 2001

by Arup Chakraborty, Chair

I n my first column, I had hoped to focus on the exciting things happening in your chemical engineering department. However, this excitement is now tempered by the ghastly events that rocked our nation and the world on September11.The campus community and the chemical engineering department, like millions of other American communities, have grieved, consoled each other, and gone back to work with renewed determination.

University communities around the nation and the world will play an important role in confronting the challenges presented by terrorism.

I n July 1, Harvey Blanch stepped down as our department chair after four years of yeoman-like service. We owe Harvey a debt of gratitude for his excellent stewardship of the department during this time. He is now on sabbatical leave and will return to full time teaching in the fall of 2002.

It is now my privilege to serve as the chair of your department. It was hard for me to agree to take on this service role, as I was not sure what it meant in terms of time away from my scholarly pursuits. I am delighted to report that my colleagues are working as a team in carrying out administrative tasks and formulating near- and long-term strategic plans. The fact that my research and teaching go on as usual is a tribute to every one of my colleagues and their enthusiasm about the future of the chemical engineering department.

There are three main issues that we are grappling with at the present time. The first issue is improving the services we provide to our undergraduates in terms of career counseling and personal contact with the faculty. The second issue pertains to faculty hiring opportunities expected in the next few years. Specifically, we have been debating about which research directions and faculty teaching interests to strengthen in order to provide the best undergraduate and graduate education in chemical engineering. This issue is also strongly coupled with the need for research laboratory space. The College of Chemistry is impacted for space for at least three more years due to seismic retrofitting and renovation projects that are underway. The third major issue that the faculty is considering is ways in which we might broaden our graduate education experience by providing exposure to how new products are developed from the laboratory to the market place.

Our effort to improve upon our already excellent undergraduate program is being led by David Graves, who is our Vice Chair for Undergraduate Affairs. Susan Muller, the Vice Chair for Graduate Affairs, is playing a pivotal role in helping David, since graduate and undergraduate education are inextricably linked. With David’s and Susan’s leadership, the faculty is considering a number of initiatives aimed toward improving undergraduate education.

We are taking steps to include a basic biology course in the chemical engineering curriculum. This is because we believe that the life sciences are now as important as the physical and chemical sciences in many manufacturing and technology development arenas where the chemical engineering profession plays a central role. We are currently working on the logistics of implementing this plan. David and Susan have also led us in formulating a pilot program that aims to provide a more personalized approach to undergraduate advising.

Some of the specific initiatives we are currently considering are as follows. Every year, each student will have the opportunity to meet for lunch with a group of five students and her/his faculty advisor. The chair will have lunch with the entire junior class in groups of six or less over the course of the academic year. Would this provide students the opportunity to interact closely with faculty on career issues that are broader than those related to specific courses? We would be grateful if you could provide us with input on these or other initiatives aimed toward improving the undergraduate experience at Berkeley. Your comments will be invaluable as we consider and implement such plans.

Our effort to formulate strategic plans for faculty hiring and to accommodate the laboratory space needs of new recruits is being led by the departmental planning committee, comprised of Jay Keasling (Chair), John Newman, Enrique Iglesia, and Nitash Balsara. Alex Bell is leading our efforts to think about broadening our graduate curriculum to include aspects of product development. We are looking for input from our alumni/alumnae on both these scores.

The faculty continue to excel at teaching and research. Several of our colleagues have received awards and been recognized for their accomplishments this year. Harvey Blanch won the Amgen Award, sponsored by Amgen Corporation for Biochemical Engineering. This is awarded biannually at the Biochemical Engineering conference. Harvey is now the only recipient of both the Enzyme Engineering and Amgen Awards. Harvey was also invited to present the plenary lecture at the Bioproducts Recovery conference in Cancun this year, celebrating 20 years of this meeting, which Alan Michaels and Harvey started in 1981.

Alex Bell won the ACS award in homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis. Alex will also deliver the Pirkey Lecture at the University of Texas at Austin and the William G. Lowrie Lectures at Ohio State University. John Newman will be the Onsager Lecturer in 2002. He will spend three months in Norway, where he will deliver a series of lectures. Doug Clark will deliver the Gwathmey lectures at the University of Virginia. John Prausnitz delivered the PV Danckwerts Memorial Lecture at the Royal Academy of Engineering in London. I am now the Editor-in Chief of Advances in Chemical Engineering and serve on the editorial board of Chemical Physics.

Other accolades have been bestowed upon our faculty. Henrik Wallman won the College of Chemistry’s Distinguished Teaching Award during graduation ceremonies in May. Emeritus Professor Morton Denn was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and also received an honorary doctorate from the University of Minnesota. David Graves was elected Fellow of the American Vacuum Society and won their Plasma Science and Technology Division award. Additionally, Susan Muller was elected Vice President of the Society of Rheology and Jeff Reimer will deliver the Robert Vaughan Lectures at the Rocky Mountain Conference on NMR spectroscopy.

The department continues to flourish, and we are attempting to grow in ways that will allow us to lead the academic chemical engineering profession in undergraduate and graduate education and research. I hope you will help us by providing input on how we can take steps to maintain our excellence. Members of the faculty would be delighted if you were to stop by when you are in the area. We also look forward to seeing some of you in November at the department’s reception during the annual AIChE meeting in Reno.

College News


We have been debating about which research directions and faculty teaching interests to strengthen in order to provide the best undergraduate and graduate education in chemical engineering.







We are taking steps to include a basic biology course in the chemical engineering curriculum.











Harvey (Blanch) is now the only recipient of both the Enzyme
Engineering and Amgen Awards.

culty Award and