Much to celebrate

Douglas Clark toasts Carolyn Bertozzi at an event at the College of Chemistry to celebrate her Nobel Prize in March, 2022. Photo Brittany Hosea-Small

by Douglas Clark, Dean of the College of Chemistry

The end of the spring semester is always a busy and exciting time in the College of Chemistry, and this year was no exception. Soon-to-be-graduates donning hard-earned regalia and big smiles emerged in the nearby Hearst Mining Circle capturing photos with classmates and friends. In late April, I hosted our first Dean’s Dinner since 2019. And we continued to celebrate the incredible achievements of our faculty and students. 

On that note, we recently had the huge honor of raising a glass to Carolyn Bertozzi, our former colleague and 2022 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, as she unveiled her Nobel plaque in the lobby of Latimer Hall. Her groundbreaking research minted her as the college’s 18th Nobel Laureate and our 3rd woman Nobel Laureate, alongside Jennifer Doudna and Frances Arnold. How amazing is it that no other college on Earth can make that claim?

We welcomed five new assistant professors to the college during academic year 2022-23: Ziyang Zhang (chemical biology, who was highlighted in the last issue of Catalyst), Hendrik Utzat (physical chemistry), and Jennifer Bergner (physical chemistry) in the Department of Chemistry; Aditi Krishnapriyan (machine learning/ AI) in the Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering; and Robert Saxton (chemical biology) jointly in the Departments of Molecular & Cell Biology and Chemistry. We could not be more thrilled to have recruited these rising superstars; they are all truly exemplary and will further enhance our vibrant community of exceptional teachers and researchers.

After five intense and dedicated years, Matt Francis will step down as Chair of the Department of Chemistry at the end of June. During his tenure as Chair, Matt was successful in hiring eight (and counting) new faculty members, and he worked closely with graduate students to develop a Chemistry Climate Survey, highlighting the importance of diversifying chemistry faculty, improving graduate student mentorship, and addressing student mental health challenges. Matt also showed exemplary leadership navigating the unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic. The college is indebted to Matt for his outstanding service. 

Taking the reins from Matt is synthetic organic chemist Dean Toste, whose current research is primarily focused on the development and study of catalysts, catalytic reactions, and methods to address challenges in chemical synthesis and energy. Dean is a Member of the National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Royal Society of Canada – Academy of Science. I look forward to teaming up with Dean in his new administrative position in the college. 

I would be remiss if I did not mention our progress on Heathcock Hall. With generous gifts totaling nearly $75M dollars in private philanthropy, $30M from the state, and an additional $30M in lending support from campus, we have reached a new milestone in our fundraising goal, and we are roughly $15M shy of our $150M goal to break ground before the end of this year. Thank you for your continued support, encouragement, and investment in the future of chemistry and chemical engineering research and education. 

I hope you will enjoy reading about the many other noteworthy CoC developments and stories in this issue, including the new lectureship honoring Judith Klinman, the alumni feature on Ifan Lin, and Kevan Shokat’s recognition for his high-impact cancer research and discoveries. I remain grateful and feel incredibly lucky that I get to engage with this dynamic and inspiring community each and every day.