With the help of photolithography and a creative use of programmable DNA, UC Berkeley researchers have created a new technique that can rapidly “print” two-dimensional arrays of cells and proteins that mimic a wide variety of cellular environments in the body — be it the brain tissue surrounding a neural stem cell, the lining of the intestine or liver or the cellular configuration inside a tumor. This technique could help scientists develop a better understanding of the complex cell-to-cell messaging that dictates a cell’s final fate.
March 18, 2020
March 16, 2020
How many newspaper stories, magazine features and TV segments have been produced so far that marvel at the revolutionary capabilities of CRISPR while giving almost no idea at all how the gene-editing discovery actually works? Those who lament the state of science journalism should take note of 'Human Nature', in which Adam Bolt and helpful scientists offer an easily understood introduction to techniques often described with head-scratching phrases like "it's a word processor for DNA!" A cogent, wide-ranging look at both the discovery and the nascent, soon-to-be-giant fights humans are having over it, the documentary should be welcomed in its limited theatrical release and will be even more useful on video.
A potential solution to speeding up the diagnostics of coronavirus may have presented itself in the form of the gene editing molecular tool called CRISPR. Combined with high-scale advances in automation and computation, CRISPR promises to be a real game-changer in the field of synthetic biology, impacting everything from chemicals and materials to food and health. CRISPR’s precision has an uncanny ability to find a specific sequence within a sample, and one startup has a way to test for coronavirus in 30 minutes (the whole process including sample preparation will take about 4 hours).
March 10, 2020
It is with tremendous sadness that I write to share the news that Charles Harris, respected colleague and dedicated champion of the College, passed away at his home this morning; he was 79 years old. Charles was born in New York in 1940 but spent most of his youth in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, a suburb just outside of Detroit. He earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan in 1963 and his Ph.D. degree from MIT in 1966. Charles joined the Berkeley faculty in the Department of Chemistry in 1967.
March 9, 2020
Guided by CRISPR pioneer Jennifer Doudna, a formidable entrepreneur in her own right, C&EN profiled 15 women working in the Chemical industry in academics and startups in C&EN's 2020 Trailblazers. Four of them are affiliated with UC Berkeley's College of Chemistry. They have collectively launched more than 30 start-ups aimed at developing treatments for rare diseases, building better batteries, and more. They’re chemical scientists at the top of their game. They’re role models building and mentoring teams. And yes, they’re badasses. They live by the motto “Nobody ever got anywhere by listening to no.”
March 4, 2020
Gabor A. Somorjai, Professor of the Graduate School and Emeritus Chemistry Professor has been awarded the Helmholtz Medal by the members of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (formerly the Prussian Academy of Sciences.) The award honors his outstanding scientific achievements in the field of surface chemistry and catalysis, and especially the catalytic effects of metal surfaces. The Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities continues the tradition established by the Prussian Academy of Sciences of awarding the Helmholtz Medal which was established in 1892.
Omar Yaghi has been awrded the the 2020 August-Wilhelm-von-Hofmann-Denkmünze. The German Chemical Society bi-annually presents this prestigious award to an outstanding national and international chemists in a wide range of fields. Among the oldest chemistry awards, the August-Wilhelm-von-Hofmann-Denkmünze gold medal was first awarded in 1903. The award is intended to recognize outstanding achievements in chemistry; in particular by scientists working outside of Germany.
March 3, 2020
Plastic is a certainly versatile element. There is much we can do with it. Utensils, tools, parts for cars, technological devices. There is only one thing we do not know how to do with plastic: disappear when it is no longer useful. There the real headache begins and the enormous challenge of obtaining a circular or fully recyclable plastic is posed. Plastics contain various additives, such as dyes, fillers or flame retardants and very few of them can be recycled without loss of performance or aesthetics. The most recyclable plastic, PET (ethylene polyterephthalate), is only recycled at a rate of 20-30%. The rest generally goes to incinerators or landfills where it takes centuries to decompose.
Biological membranes, such as the "walls" of most types of living cells, primarily consist of a double layer of lipids, or "lipid bilayer," that forms the structure, and a variety of embedded and attached proteins with highly specialized functions, including proteins that rapidly and selectively transport ions and molecules in and out of the cell. Scientists have long sought to develop synthetic membranes that could match the selectivity and high-speed transport offered by their natural counterparts. Now a team led by University of California Berkeley researchers has designed a novel polymer that is as effective as natural proteins in transporting protons through a membrane. The results of their research were published in Nature.
February 26, 2020
The American Society of Chemistry (ACS) has announced Naomi S. Ginsberg is a recipient of the 2020 early-career award in experimental physical chemistry. She is being recognized "For the development of new time- and space-resolved imaging and spectroscopy methods to study dynamical phenomena in heterogeneous materials". The Physical Chemistry Division of ACS annually sponsors senior and early-career awards in theoretical and experimental physical chemistry that are intended to recognize the most outstanding scientific achievements of members of the Division. The recipients will be honored at the the Fall ACS National Meeting in San Francisco.
Wondering which plastic containers to avoid and which are safe to eat from? How to learn about chemicals in food packaging? Or how to make sure you are buying BPA-free foods? Foodprint recently held a Twitter chat with Dr. Martin Mulvihill (Ph.D. ’09, Chem), researcher and advisor at the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry and general partner with Safer Made, a mission-driven venture capital fund that invests in companies that remove or reduce the use of harmful chemicals in products and manufacturing processes and asked that very question.
Scientists in the lab of Kevin Wilson (Ph.D. '03, Chem), at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have made a surprising discovery that could help explain our risk for developing chronic diseases or cancers as we get older, and how our food decomposes over time. What’s more, their findings, which were reported recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), point to an unexpected link between the ozone chemistry in our atmosphere and our cells’ hardwired ability to ward off disease.
February 19, 2020
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.
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..
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
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.
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.
February 11, 2020
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
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
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.