Dean’s Desk: The Riches of Fall

By Douglas S. Clark

The fall conjures annual images of autumn colors, falling leaves, and students of all ages heading back to school. For our College of Chemistry, it also evokes visions of Nobel Prizes, which are announced in October. Our College has been recognized with many prestigious honors and awards, the most distinguished being the Nobel Prize. From 1934 to 2018, four of our faculty, three of our previous postdoctoral scholars, and seven of our former graduate students have been awarded this distinction. In this issue of Catalyst you will read about our latest Nobel Prize recipient, alumna Frances Arnold. A chemical engineering graduate student of Harvey Blanch and PhD recipient in 1985, Frances has always been a trail blazer. She can lay claim to many firsts, including the first PhD chemical engineer to receive a Nobel Prize, and the first female chemical engineer to receive the prize.  Frances has also maintained her Berkeley connection; she was our 2018 Commencement Speaker and the 2013 Lewis Lecturer. We are immensely proud of her.

Another recent notable awardee from our College (among many) is Chemistry Professor John Hartwig, who shared the 2019 Wolf Prize with Stephen Buchwald of MIT. The Wolf Prize is generally regarded to be the most prestigious award in chemistry after the Nobel Prize, and this is the third year in a row it has been awarded to a Berkeley chemistry professor (Omar Yaghi shared it in 2018, and Robert Bergman received it in 2017). Including Paul Alivisatos in 2012, our College has garnered four of the last seven Wolf Prizes–a truly remarkable achievement (there was no award in 2015).

This issue also includes articles about two of our assistant professors, Rui Wang in CBE, and Ke Xu in Chemistry. We have a stellar group of assistant professors who are making their mark and we are hopeful that you will soon hear about three newly appointed assistant professors coming on board this July (and further down the road, future Wolf Prize awardees and even a Nobel Laureate or two).

We have also expanded and upgraded our facilities for educating the next generation of trail blazers. While our undergraduate students are tackling organic chemistry and thermodynamics, they now can access our new Peer Tutoring Center, located in Latimer Hall in what was previously called Bixby Commons. With generous support from Chevron and Fillmore Capital Partners (CoC alumnus Ron Silva’s company), this Center provides students with space for review sessions, student group meetings, one-on-one and group tutoring. Our Que Family Undergraduate Advising Center in Gilman Hall also now provides career counseling as well as undergraduate advising.

So, next year when the subtle signs of fall begin to catch your eye, think of it as a particularly exciting time for the College of Chemistry. We’ll be waiting to see if the season brings us more distinction to add to our legacy. In the meantime, thank you for your continuing support, and for helping us make each and every year so rewarding.

Dean Douglas S. Clark in the lab