Dean’s Desk: Building Upon Milestones

It’s been an eventful academic year as usual: our faculty have been recognized with numerous prestigious awards; we’ve also had retirements and new staff arrivals, celebrations, and memorials.

In the spring 2016 issue of Catalyst, you read about the plan to construct a joint chemistry and engineering building on the Donner Lab site. After consultation with campus administrators, we have now brought in another partner—the College of Natural Resources (CNR)—for a building in a new location.

The new COC/COE/CNR building, provisionally called the “Berkeley Science Hub,” will be constructed on the site of the current Tolman Hall, situated in the northwest quadrant of campus. The Tolman Hall site will offer many advantages over the Donner location in terms of cost, benefits, and size of the footprint.

Also noteworthy is the first close of the Berkeley Catalyst Fund (see the alumni profile in the Spring 2016 Catalyst), which officially secured its first round of financing and is now up and running. This represents a major milestone and a new model for promoting entrepreneurism within the chemical sciences community, and I congratulate the many people whose combined vision, dedication, and determination made it possible.

This spring the American Chemical Society designated the Mars Infrared Spectrometer (IRS) as a National Historical Chemical Landmark; a plaque and mockup of the spectrometer were unveiled in the lobby of Pimentel Hall in May. In the late 1960s chemistry professor George Pimentel, along with Kenneth Herr, who worked in his lab, designed and built the Mars Infrared Spectrometer, two of which were carried aboard NASA spacecraft Mariner 6 and 7 to examine the red planet.

It is largely thanks to Pimentel and Herr that we know as much as we do today about Mars and its chemical make-up, including the fact that there was once water on its surface. This is the second National Historic Chemical Landmark in the College—Gilman Hall being the first—and exemplifies the far-reaching impact of chemistry at Berkeley.

Other distinguished faculty, among many recognized this year, include chemistry professor Robert Bergman, who was awarded the Wolf Prize, and Jennifer Doudna (Chemistry and Molecular & Cell Biology), who received the Japan Prize. (Jennifer also was our commencement speaker.) Bob Bergman retired in July of 2016 although he is still active in the Department.

Also retiring this July are chemistry professors Alex Pines and Marcin Majda. Alex, like Bob, will still pursue his research interests and has agreed to teach Chem 1A this fall. Marcin served admirably as undergraduate dean for nine years. With Marcin stepping down as undergraduate dean, chemistry professor John Arnold has graciously agreed to step into this role. We also lost two colleagues, chemistry professors Ignacio “Nacho” Tinoco and David Chandler; you will read more about them in this issue.

Turning now to a new member of our ranks, I welcome new assistant dean of College Relations and Development, Laurent “Lo” de Janvry, who joined the College a few months ago. I would also like to thank Mindy Rex, who has served in this position over the past several years and will now focus her attention on major fund raising.

I also bid farewell to the editor of Catalyst, Michael Barnes, who retired in July. Michael has been a distinguished science writer, a skilled photographer, a gifted editor, and always a wonderful conversationalist—thank you for your contributions to the College—we will miss you.

Dean, College of Chemistry
Gilbert N. Lewis Professor