Dean’s Desk: Looking to the future

College dean Douglas Clark cuts into the cake at the 150th anniversary party on the plaza, March 11, 2022. Photo Brittany Hosea-Small.


  • Ulysses S. Grant was president of the United States.
  • Yellowstone National Park was established as the world’s first national park.
  • Julia Morgan, notable architect, engineer, and Berkeley alum, was born in San Francisco.
  • Susan B. Anthony became the first woman to vote—albeit illegally—in a presidential election. (She was fined $100, which she never paid.)
  • And, acting at the behest of University of California President Daniel Gilman, the California State Legislature established the College of Chemistry.

One hundred and fifty years later, over 20,000 undergraduate degrees and over 8,000 graduate degrees have been awarded in the College, and there are over 15,000 College of Chemistry alumni living throughout the world. We have produced 16 Nobel Prizes, helped discover 16 elements, and made countless other contributions in education and research across the spectrum of chemistry, chemical biology, and chemical and biomolecular engineering. Indeed, the College of Chemistry is one of a kind, and it continues to set the standard for academic excellence. I am truly honored to be able to take part in the College of Chemistry’s sesquicentennial celebration

On March 11, the College was thrilled to host a private event in the Latimer Hall lobby with current faculty member and 2020 Nobel laureate in Chemistry Jennifer Doudna and former faculty member and 2021 Nobel laureate in Chemistry David MacMillan to unveil plaques honoring their Nobel Prizes. Also in attendance was Yuan T. Lee, retired faculty member and 1986 Nobel laureate in Chemistry. This historic gathering of three shining stars in the worldwide chemistry community and exemplars of the College’s prominence is not one I will soon forget.  

Adding to our group of shining stars, last July assistant professor Brooks Abel joined us in the Department of Chemistry. The Abel Group uses polymer organic chemistry and catalysis to address the issues associated with polymer sustainability. Their major research efforts focus on the development of chemically recyclable and degradable polymers, sustainable living/controlled polymerization methods, and functional materials with tunable properties. These research efforts aim to improve fundamental understanding of organic and polymer chemistry concepts while tackling the larger scale problems of polymer recycling and sustainability.

In addition, this coming July, Ziyang Zhang will join the Department of Chemistry as an assistant professor in the area of chemical biology with a focus on using chemical synthesis to modulate disease-specific targets or processes, particularly those involved in immune signaling. He also plans to identify novel immunomodulatory natural products and characterize their mechanisms of action.

I am overjoyed to announce that we are now more than half way to our fundraising goal for Heathcock Hall, thanks to a wonderfully generous $10M gift from Gordon (B.S. Chemistry, 1950) and Betty Moore. This remarkable donation brings us that much closer to building our new research and teaching facility, which will provide an ideal environment to foster learning and deep discovery for the next 150 years.

In other important College news, associate professor Bryan McCloskey will take the reins as the next chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (CBE), effective July 1, 2022. Bryan has been a member of the CBE faculty since 2014, and his work focuses on the synthesis and characterization of electrochemical systems, with special emphasis on energy-storage devices such as metal batteries. As we welcome Bryan into this new role, I would also like to acknowledge the truly remarkable service that current CBE chair, Jeff Reimer, has contributed to the College community over the last nine years (nine out of a total of 14 years Jeff has served as chair!). Jeff’s leadership, dedication, and resourcefulness have helped see us through some of the most challenging times in the College’s history. His partnership has been invaluable, and I wish him all the best in his well-deserved retirement and transition to emeritus status. You can read more about this leadership change in this issue.   

Throughout this year, we will celebrate not only our brilliant past, but also our future. We all contribute to, and we are all part of, the rich history of the College of Chemistry, and if the next 150 years are anything like the last 150 years, we will surely have many more reasons to rejoice together.

Happy 150th, College of Chemistry!

Douglas S. Clark
Dean, College of Chemistry
Gilbert N Lewis Professor