Meet our faculty: Robert Bergman

December 10, 2019

Bob Bergman

Prof. Bob Bergman outlines a simple technique for generating parabenzynes. image: Berkeley Science Review

In the newly released fall edition of the Berkeley graduate science magazine, Robert (Bob) Bergman is featured as the faculty profile.  Learn about our esteemed faculty member who has blazed trails in both organic and organometallic chemistry. 

From the interview:

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. As graduate students, our years of prior education had trained us to practice for high test scores and GPAs rather than learn to satisfy our innate desire to understand the world. Bergman hoped to reawaken our curiosity and joy in learning. Over the course of the semester, I believe he did just that. 

Bergman has been a pillar of the Berkeley College of Chemistry for decades, as well as an extensive contributor to science outreach in the local community. He helped start the Bay Area Scientists in Schools (BASIS) program—which brings local scientists into public elementary school classrooms to help with hands-on lessons—by recruiting graduate student volunteers. Over the last 20 years, the program has grown to include over 500 volunteers inspiring young students to creatively solve scientific problems. Speaking with Bergman, it quickly became clear that he doesn’t see being a scientist and being a teacher as mutually exclusive careers—he sees them as complementing each other. In his words, “people who stop learning can’t imagine that they’re going to continue to be good teachers.”

Read the full interview here: