News

February 19, 2020

heavy elements

As we push the Periodic Table of the Elements further and further into the unknown, its familiar columns and rows are threatening to crumble. What’s next for this science icon? Superheavy elements exist for a fraction of time and are nearly impossible to catch. But understanding them could force us to reimagine the most iconic scientific symbol of all time..

water adsorption

Adsorption is a process which plucks water molecules from air that has less than 100% relative humidity by attaching them to the surface of a solid material. The molecules are held there by electrostatic connections called Van der Waals forces that link them with the molecules of the pertinent surface. To collect a lot of water this way therefore requires a material that has two properties. One is a large surface area. The other is an appropriate Van der Waals response. Experimental traps that employ this principle have been made using substances called metal-organic frameworks.

Yao Yue Lao

In honor of Engineers Week, Aerospace Corporation is spotlighting a few of our many great engineers and getting a peek at the exciting projects that they’re focused on. Find out about Yao (B.S. '08, Chem) wound up at the Aerospace Corporation doing exciting work in photovoltaic characterization and solar array modeling.

February 12, 2020

David Altman

On the brink of his 100th trip around the sun, the secret to David Altman’s (Ph.D. '43, Chem) long and illustrious life isn’t rocket science. At least, not entirely. It’s a strategy that seems to have worked well for Altman, who will officially become a centenarian on Thursday. His dizzying number of accomplishments in rocket science — papers written, patents held, awards won — seem to indicate that not a moment was wasted in all of his one hundred years.

Discovery of new class of phages

Scientists have discovered hundreds of unusually large, bacteria-killing viruses with capabilities normally associated with living organisms, blurring the line between living microbes and viral machines as reported in new research findings in Nature. These phages — short for bacteriophages, so-called because they “eat” bacteria — are of a size and complexity considered typical of life, carry numerous genes normally found in bacteria and use these genes against their bacterial hosts.

February 11, 2020

SkyDeck features College startups

UC Berkeley is not just one of the best research universities in the world, but also a unique place for entrepreneurs, students and alumni to grow and build their own innovative startups. Many of the ideas are based on issues young entrepreneurs first encountered in Berkeley classes or labs. Two College of Chemistry startups presented among 23 young companies last week at Berkeley SkyDeck’s annual Demo Day, where entrepreneurs pitched new devices, apps or inventions that, they hope, will provide big, bold fixes to the world’s problems, from climate change to disease.

February 5, 2020

William Lester

Dr. William Alexander Lester, Jr, is a Chemist & Educator for the University of California, Berkeley. He was just recently selected for the Lifetime Achievement Award for 2019 and as Top Chemist Educator of the Year for 2018 by the International Association of Top Professionals (IAOTP) for his outstanding leadership and commitment to the field. With close to 6 decades of professional experience as a seasoned and trusted Chemist and Educator, Dr. Lester has certainly proven himself as an accomplished professional and expert in the field.

February 3, 2020

Catalysis Pioneers

Alexis Bell, The Dow Professor of Sustainable Chemistry at Berkeley and Frances Arnold, Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry, and an alumna of the College were both cited on the list of catalysis pioneers listed in the ACS publication ACS Axial.

Carolyn Bertozzi’

Carolyn Bertozzi, the glycoscience evangelist has spent her career illuminating the importance of the sugar structures coating our cells. As she turns from building biological tools to building biotech companies, will she see a new wave of converts?

green chemistry

An injection of cash helped the University of California, Berkeley, reform its general chemistry lab instruction. Back in 2012, the College of Chemistry received a gift of money from the Dow Chemical Company Foundation. Most of the funds were used to completely renovate the teaching labs, adding new equipment and modern instrumentation. But, says Anne M. Baranger, UC Berkeley’s director of undergraduate chemistry, $1 million was earmarked for developing a new teaching curriculum to match the labs. And the focus was on sustainability.

January 24, 2020

Halide perovskite crystal that emits blue light. Courtesy Peidong Yang.

University of California, Berkeley, scientists have created a blue light-emitting diode (LED) from a trendy new semiconductor material, halide perovskite, overcoming a major barrier to employing these cheap, easy-to-make materials in electronic devices.

January 23, 2020


 U.S. National Archives)Eric Seaborg, a writer and author, outdoorsman and environmentalist, has a love for hiking that he shared with his father, the late chemist and Nobel laureate Glenn Seaborg (1912-1999) who blazed trails in element and isotope discoveries during an illustrious career at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and UC Berkeley.

January 13, 2020

Jennifer Doudna

Jennifer Doudna, UC Berkeley professor of molecular and cell biology and of chemistry, has won the 2020 Wolf Prize in Medicine, a prestigious international prize awarded in Israel for unique contributions to humanity.

Polly Arnold. Photo courtesy Chemistry World, Carlos Chavarra.Polly Arnold is a champion of actinide chemistry and diversity in science. Kit Chapman asks her what comes next as she starts her new role at a US national lab

‘Do I have imposter syndrome?’ Polly Arnold raises an eyebrow at the question, as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world. ‘Yes, of course I do. Everybody who didn’t go to Eton has imposter syndrome. Not just the women, it’s the men who didn’t go to a brilliant school, too. The only people who don’t have imposter syndrome are those told from childhood they’re born to rule.’

January 9, 2020

synthetic film that mimics transmembrane proteins

Researchers, led by UC Berkeley lead investigator Ting Xu, Professor of Chemistry & Materials Science and Engineering, have created a synthetic material that is as effective as naturally occurring proteins in transporting molecules through membranes, a major milestone that could transform such fields as medicine, life sciences, alternative energy and environmental science.

January 7, 2020

fossil fuel

Electricity generation is projected to play a central role in global decarbonization efforts. On the one hand, electricity generation is supposed to scale up rapidly, as we use electricity to replace fossil fuels in everything from powering vehicles to heating buildings and cooking food. At the same time, decarbonization necessitates a radical transformation in the way we produce electricity, since worldwide, over 60% of electricity is currently produced using fossil fuel technologies.

Jean Fréchet and C. Grant Willson

The National Academy of Engineering has announced today that the 2020 Charles Stark Draper Prize for Engineering will be awarded to Jean Fréchet, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at UC Berkeley and C. Grant Willson, Professor Emeritus at UT Austin “for the invention, development, and commercialization of chemically amplified materials for micro- and nanofabrication, enabling the extreme miniaturization of microelectronic devices.”

December 31, 2019

CRISPR Cas9

One of biology’s wilder facts is that we’re all family. You and me, sure, but also me and a mushroom. Triceratops shared genes with you. So does the virus that makes you cough, and a rosebush. Bacteria left us on the tree of life around 2.7 billion years ago, but the wet world they came from is still ours: One code runs all of life. The same proteins that imprint memories in your neurons, for example, do so in octopi, ravens, and sea slugs. This genetic conservation means tricks from one species can be hijacked. If you stick a jellyfish gene in a monkey, it’ll glow green.

periodic table

The story of the fifteenth element began in Hamburg, in 1669. The unsuccessful glassblower and alchemist Hennig Brandt was trying to find the philosopher’s stone, a mythical substance that could turn base metals into gold. Instead, he distilled something new. It was foamy and, depending on the preparation, yellow or black. He called it “cold fire,” because it glowed in the dark. Interested parties took a look; some felt that they were in the presence of a miracle. “If anyone had rubbed himself all over with it,” one observer noted, “his whole figure would have shone, as once did that of Moses when he came down from Mt. Sinai.”

sconverting yeast into THC and CBD

In a paper published earlier this year in the journal Nature, scientists explain the process in which they are using yeasts to manufacture cannabis compounds. These test tube shenanigans are being conducted more as a way for scientists to gain a better understanding of THC and CBD rather than a means for bypassing the cannabis plant in one’s quest for buzz or therapeutic benefits.