“I decided to join the College’s advisory board because for me, the experience of pursuing a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering in the CoC was incredibly rich. The opportunity to collaborate and live with the best students and faculty anywhere in the pursuit of learning and the creation of new understanding was profound, and the relationships formed have been deep and lasting. The opportunity to extend those relationships and at the same time give back and contribute to the bright future of the College was an obvious choice.”
By Laurent de Janvry & Marge d’Wylde
When Professor Gilbert Newton (G.N.) Lewis was Dean of the College of Chemistry (1912 – 1941), interactions with industry were highly discouraged as this was seen as potentially disrupting the freedom of the faculty’s research interests with undue corporate influences.
After World War II, with the growth of chemical engineering and organic chemistry came more interest in industry interactions with the College. Thus, the way was opened for the first new source of private funding to come from industry. Professor C. Judson King, when he became Chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering in 1972, initiated the first industrial Advisory Board for the department.
Members of the initial Board represented typical employing industries at the time and included Board Chair, Richard Emmert of DuPont; Walter Benzing of Applied Materials; Thibaut Brian of Air Products; David Brown of Halcon International; W. Kenneth Davis of Bechtel; H. D. Doan of Dow Chemical; Bryce MacDonald of Kennecott Corp.; John W. Scott of Chevron; and Frank B. Sprow of Exxon.
The departmental Advisory Board functioned for many years in a very helpful fashion. One of the first recommendations they made was for the development of graduate level instruction in process economics. Another was for further instruction in written and oral communication.
During his deanship of the College of Chemistry (1994 – 1999), chemical engineering professor Alexis Bell created an Advisory Board for the College of Chemistry at large, at which point the separate departmental Advisory Board was discontinued.
Bell commented, “I decided as dean that the College could benefit from having an Advisory Board. Since this concept had worked so well for the department, I asked my colleagues whether they saw any problem with terminating the departmental board and rolling it over into a college board. Since there was no objection, and the Department of Chemistry also supported the idea we started a College-wide Board.”
Since its start, the Advisory Board has served the College in a number of critical capacities. Up until Tan Kha Kee Hall became a capital project for the College, all buildings in the College had been funded by the State of California. With the State’s changing fortunes, the University had to start raising funds for new buildings. The Board was essential to funding a large segment of the $40M project which was opened in 1997. Nobel Laureate and Professor Emeritus Yuan T. Lee (Ph.D. ‘65, Chem), and alumnus John Heil (Ph.D. ’65, ChemE), who were both on the Advisory Board at the time, were integral to raising funds for the building which today hosts a number of active faculty research labs and the College’s computing center.
In 2016, when former UC Berkeley Chancellor Dirks threatened to break up the College for campus budgetary reasons, the Advisory Board went into action to help activate the greater College of Chemistry community to band together and push back on the University’s plans. In a letter to Dirks identifying the shortcomings of disbanding the College , the Board said “We are very fortunate to have the history and brand power of the UC Berkeley College of Chemistry at this pivotal period, where developing new revenue sources is vital. We are also quite fortunate to have in place the leadership of Dean Douglas Clark, who has had the foresight to guide the College of Chemistry in a new direction to develop these crucial revenue sources.”
The Advisory Board has also played a pivotal role in helping the University and College develop a venture capital fund. The Berkeley Catalyst Fund (BCF), founded in 2016, was started by alumni Laura Smoliar (Ph.D. ’95, Chem) and Ted Hou (Ph.D. ’95, Chem). The BCF is responsible for investing in science based start-ups, with some earnings benefiting the College. Many of the start-ups the BCF invest in are direct outcomes of the College’s faculty and graduate student’s research and intellectual property.
The Berkeley Catalyst Philanthropic Fund (BCPF) was established to allow alumni to donate to the College of Chemistry, receiving tax deductible credit for their donations, which are then invested by the UC Berkeley Foundation into the BCF on behalf of the College of Chemistry. All potential proceeds benefit the College of Chemistry. The BCF and BCPF program has become the model for other University of California venture capital funds.
The Advisory Board continues to provide supportive leadership to develop and implement the College’s strategic objectives which include increasing our financial strength; fulfilling our public education, research, and service mission; and enhancing our academic excellence and worldwide reputation. The Advisory Board is focused on the following five strategic objectives: student-alumni engagement, revenue generation, development, reputation and brand, and diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Currently, the Advisory Board consists of 22 alumni and key corporate partners of the College of Chemistry, and is chaired by John Markels (Ph.D. ’93, ChemE), President of Global Vaccines at Merck. Our Advisory Board represents a diversity of industries and functions, and includes scientists, business leaders, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and intellectual property attorneys across the biotech-pharma, energy, chemicals, and materials industries with representatives from Amgen, Applied Materials, BASF, Chevron, Dow Chemicals, Fosun Pharma, Lam Research, Merck, PMP Tech, Sangamo Therapeutics, among others.
“As a former student and current Advisory Board member, I could not be prouder to be part of Berkeley Chemistry, especially with the recent awarding of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Professors Frances Arnold and Jennifer Doudna, two spectacularly talented teacher-researcher-scientists, both who have deep roots to our College and are great women role models. My own experience at UC Berkeley as an undergraduate chemistry major, an undergraduate research trainee, and chemistry stock room assistant formed the foundation for my career in chemistry – so being on the College of Chemistry Advisory Board is a way to give back to the College that has given so much to me.”
We greatly value diversity on the Advisory Board. Over the last few years, we have increased our representation of women to 30%. Read about our current members online. As we look to the future, we hope to expand our Advisory Board’s membership to a cadre of 30 to 40 alumni and corporate partners.
If you are interested in getting more involved with our College in this strategic capacity, please contact Laurent de Janvry, Senior Assistant Dean of College Relations and Development at firstname.lastname@example.org.