News

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

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.”

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.

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.”

December 30, 2019

first US CRISPR trials

When it was unveiled in 2012, people had great hopes that the gene editor CRISPR/Cas9 could treat or even cure hundreds to thousands of genetic diseases. This year, researchers in the United States began testing the gene editor in people, a crucial first step in determining whether the technology can fulfill its medical promise.

December 29, 2019

research announcement about B-Raf V600E

Researchers in the UC Berkeley lab of John Kuriyan, Chancellor's Professor at the University of California, Berkeley in the departments of Molecular and Cell Biology and Chemistry, have utilized powerful NSF funded supercomputers at the University of Texas Advanced Computing Center and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center to uncover the mechanism that activates cell mutations found in about 50 percent of melanomas.

December 27, 2019

smokestacks

A team of researchers at Berkeley Lab, led by alumna Rebecca Abergel, have developed a library of artificial proteins or “peptoids” that effectively “chelate” or bind to lanthanides and actinides, heavy metals that make up the so-called f-block elements at the bottom of the periodic table. The new library offers researchers an automated, high-throughput method for precisely designing new peptoids – protein-like polymers with a precise sequence of monomer units – that chelate lanthanides such as gadolinium, a common ingredient in MRI contrast agents, and actinides such as plutonium.

December 17, 2019

extracting drinking water from the air

Last year, researchers from the lab of Professor Omar Yaghi at UC Berkeley and Saudi Arabia published research announcing advancements in their MOF water capture system research. Now, the US military has established a new research program via DARPA looking for advanced ways to hydrate its soldiers. Instead of sending the precious cargo of H2O, the military wants its soldiers to be able to take water from the very air they breathe.”

December 13, 2019

2020 trends in chemistry

Editors from ACS Central Science and Nature Chemistry have weighed in on new and major chemical research trends in a webinar from C&EN. Experts Chris Chang, a senior editor with ACS Central Science and chemistry professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and Stu Cantrill, the chief editor of Nature Chemistry are interviewed. Chang picked advances in protein degraders for his big trend of 2019. Cantrill chose advances in the chemical recycling of plastics for his trend of the year.

December 11, 2019

smokestacks

In new research reported in Nature, an international team of chemical engineers have designed a material that can capture carbon dioxide from wet flue gasses better than current commercial materials. One way to ameliorate the polluting impact of flue gases is to take the CO2 out of them and store it in geological formations or recycle it; there is, in fact, an enormous amount of research trying to find novel materials that can capture CO2 from these flue gasses.

December 10, 2019

Robert Bergman

On the first day of graduate school, I went to my physical organic chemistry class feeling nervous and intimidated. The class was taught by Bob Bergman, a chemist whose extensive scientific record and research contributions I had learned about as an undergraduate. Many professors who excel at research are, unfortunately, not good teachers, so I had no idea what to expect. In his first lecture, Bergman played a movie of his young granddaughter experimenting with a saltshaker, and he explained how excited children are about figuring out how things work.

Richard Andersen

Academic researchers are usually quick to recognize the accomplishments of their colleagues, heaping praise on them when they reach a milestone birthday or, sadly, when they pass away. A few seem to always rise above the accolades to a place of higher reverence. One of those is Chemistry Professor Richard A. Andersen of the University of California, Berkeley.

November 18, 2019

UC Berkeley startups to watch

Even the hippest chemist doesn’t know how many potentially world-changing chemistry start-ups are out there. As we at C&EN present our fifth class of 10 Start-Ups to Watch (two companies are founded by UC Berkeley faculty and alum), we can confirm that there are definitely hundreds, and perhaps thousands. That makes the job of picking just 10 a challenge—though an inspiring one. This year’s choices were selected after vigorous debate by our writers and editors. We made our own lists based on our day-to-day reporting and scoured the hundreds of firms nominated by readers and advisers from around the world. We picked winners for their groundbreaking chemistry as well as the importance of the problems they are tackling.

November 15, 2019

John Hartwig

John Hartwig is the Henry Rapoport Professor of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. He received the 2019 Wolf Prize in Chemistry. His research aims to find new metal-catalysed reactions, and he was one of the developers of the Buchwald-Hartwig amination, one of the most-used reactions in drug discovery. He spoke with Katrina Krämer at the 2019 American Chemical Society national meeting in Orlando, Florida.

Ron Cohen

Scientists who scanned the skies above dozens of U.S. cities have made a surprising discovery about the smog that’s suspended over Los Angeles: one of its key ingredients isn’t disappearing as fast as it once did. The finding may help explain why the once-steady improvements in air quality have come close to stalling out here even though nitrogen oxide emissions have continued to decline. It also suggests that the particular chemistry of L.A.'s air may complicate future cleanup efforts. “That’s certainly part of why we’re in a moment in Los Angeles where it’s harder to get the air cleaner,” said Professor Ronald Cohen.

November 12, 2019

Margaret Chu-Moyer

When Chu-Moyer was tapped to head up the research and chemistry groups across Amgen’s three U.S. R&D sites in 2014, she knew she would have to make some changes for the company to succeed in bringing a KRAS inhibitor into clinical trials, along with other novel treatments for cancer, cardiovascular disease and neurological disorders. For one, she needed to improve the collaboration between scientists who had different areas of expertise—and who lived and worked in different zip codes.

November 5, 2019

Dan Nomura

In the modern age of pharmacology, some of the newest heroes in the war against human disease are biologists and chemists working in chemical proteomics. Among the leaders in this research is the Novartis-Berkeley Center for Proteomics and Chemistry Technologies (NB-CPACT), a joint venture linking Novartis, a large pharmaceutical company, and the world’s leading public research university. Launched in October 2017, the center is developing new technologies to further the discovery of next-generation therapeutics for cancer and other diseases.

November 4, 2019

Alumni in the news

Professor Emeritus Klaas Bergmann has been awarded the 2020 Davisson-Germer Prize in Atomic or Surface Physics by APS Physics “for the invention of Stimulated Raman Adiabatic Passage (STIRAP) that became universally used for coherent transfer in quantum systems with unprecedented efficiency and robustness."

Dr. Lisa Onishi, Chemical Engineer, Researcher and Senior Process Engineer at Intel, has been recognized with the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award for her "dedication, achievements, and leadership as a professional engineer".

November 1, 2019

Pimentel Hall

George Pimentel was a famous physical chemist and is renowned for having conducted work that is the pinnacle of UC Berkeley’s research in chemistry. The inventor of the chemical laser, Pimentel died in 1989 in Kensington, California. While the scientist did achieve great success on our campus, no one expected him to return to UC Berkeley from beyond the grave. Nonetheless, in 1990, the rumors started. Copies of the periodic table started cropping up around campus. Chemistry students in lab in Latimer Hall started hearing voices telling them how to correctly perform their experiments...."