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.

January 1, 2020

Chemistry Fiends logo

By Kathryn M. Neal, Associate University Archivist, Bancroft Library

Willard Libby

By George B. Kauffman, Professor of Chemistry, California State University Fresno 

Willard Frank Libby (1908 - 1980) American chemist whose technique of carbon-14 (or radiocarbon) dating provided an extremely valuable tool for archaeologists, anthropologists, and earth scientists. For this development he was honored with the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1960.

Giauque, William Francis

By D. N. Lyon, K. S. Pitzer, and D. A. Shirley

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.

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

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.

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.

Frances Arnold joins the Board of Alphabet

Alphabet Inc. has announced the appointment of Frances Arnold (Ph.D. '85, ChemE) to its Board of Directors. Ms. Arnold is the Linus Pauling Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry and the Director of the Donna and Benjamin M. Rosen Bioengineering Center at the California Institute of Technology. A renowned innovator, she is also a celebrated leader in science having won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2018. Her appointment is effective immediately and she will serve on Alphabet’s Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee.

December 7, 2019

Joaquin Resasco

Alum Joaquin Resasco (Ph.D. '17, ChemE) has been named one of "Forbes 30 under 30 in Science" for 2020! Resasco has been reconginzed for his work aimed around shifting the decades-old paradigm of using petroleum for chemical energy into one that uses water and the atmosphere as stock for commodities, powered by renewable energy. To that end, he’s focused on designing catalysts that can be used for the sustainable production of essential chemicals and polymers.

December 5, 2019

Nitash Balsara

Protein-like molecules called “polypeptoids” (or “peptoids,” for short) have great promise as precision building blocks for creating a variety of designer nanomaterials, like flexible nanosheets – ultrathin, atomic-scale 2D materials. They could advance a number of applications – such as synthetic, disease-specific antibodies and self-repairing membranes or tissue – at a low cost.Scientists at Berkeley Lab are the first to use cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) to image atomic changes in artificial proteins known as “peptoids.” Their findings have implications for the synthesis of soft, 2D materials for a wide variety of applications.