Celebrating 25 years of discovery in Tan Kah Kee Hall

Tan Kah Kee Hall at the College of Chemistry. Photo Marge d'Wylde

By Marge d’Wylde

Tan Kah Kee Hall (Tan Hall) is the most recent addition to the suite of research buildings in the College of Chemistry. Dedicated in April of 1997, the building was designed primarily to support research and graduate education in fields of major importance to the Bay Area and California, including biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, electronic and advanced materials, fuels and chemicals, and the environment.

“The investment in this building,” said Alexis T. Bell, who was dean of the College at the time, “will be repaid many times over in the contributions of our faculty and students to our health, economy, and the environment.”

Tan Hall was the result of a partnership between the state, which provided approximately one-third of the $40M cost ($70M today) following the passage of the Higher Education Bond Act (Proposition 153) in 1992, and the private sector. Hundreds of individuals, corporations, and foundations contributed to the broad-based funding effort.

The nine-floor building contains seven floors of laboratory space, an undergraduate computer facility and lecture hall on the first floor, and the Ross and Irma McCollum Conference Room on the seventh floor with a spectacular view of the campus, Berkeley, and the Bay. The building also houses a storeroom and chemical storage.

The building is named in honor of the late Tan Kah Kee (1874-1961), a pioneering industrialist and philanthropist based in China and Singapore who devoted his wealth to promoting education. Members of the overseas Chinese community in Southeast Asia, led by prominent business and philanthropic interests, donated millions of dollars to the building in Tan’s honor.

“This building is a testimony to the international recognition of Berkeley’s contributions in chemical science and engineering,” Chancellor Tien commented. Set in the northwest corner of the College Plaza, Tan Hall joined Gilman Hall (1917), Lewis Hall (1948), Giauque Hall (1954), Latimer Hall (1962), and Hildebrand Hall (1966).

To date, eight chemistry faculty and fifteen chemical and biomolecular engineering faculty have established research labs in Tan Hall. Current scientists working in the building include chemistry researchers Christopher Chang, Michelle Chang*, Felix Fischer, and Don Tilley. Chemical engineering researchers include Alex Bell, Nitash Balsara, Douglas Clark*, Enrique Iglesia, Roya Maboudian, Ali Mesbah, Clayton Radke, and Jeffrey Reimer,

Our newest faculty members in the building include chemists Ashok Ajoy, Alanna Schepartz, chemical engineer Joelle Frechette, representing a wide range of research interests. Ajoy’s research looks at nanoscale NMR spectroscopy, targetable spin hyperpolarization agents, methods for quantum sensing and quantum computing with spins, and the chemical physics of spin transport and dynamics at the nanoscale. Frechette’s research is focused on materials at interfaces to address issues in the fields of adhesion, surface chemistry, wetting, and material science. Schepartz’s research spans the chemistry-biology continuum seeking to establish new knowledge about the chemistry of complex cellular processes and apply this knowledge to design or discover molecules–both small and large–with unique or useful properties.

Emeritus faculty who did their research in Tan Hall include Robert Bergman, Angelica Stacy, Harvey Blanch, Morton Denn, David Graves, Susan Muller, and Rachel Segalman.

*Douglas Clark and Michelle Chang are both now located in Lewis Hall.