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Dean Toste, the Gerald E.K. Branch Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at UC Berkeley, and a faculty scientist in the Chemical Sciences Division at Berkeley Lab has been elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences(link is external) (NAS) in recognition of his distinguished and continuing achievements in original chemical research. He is also a research member in the Novartis-Berkeley Center for Proteomics and Chemistry Technologies(link is external); a joint venture between UC Berkeley and the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis. The center's research is focused on combining chemistry and biology to explore new drug mechanisms and targets to develop drugs against a wide swath of proteins.

This year, the academy selected 120 new members and 26 international members during the annual meeting on April 27. Membership in the academy is considered one of the highest honors that can be afforded to a U.S. scientist or engineer.

Toste said of his election, "I am thrilled and humbled to join my colleagues in the college, UC Berkeley, and throughout the country, as a fellow of the National Academy of Sciences. Most of all, I want to express my sincere gratitude to my current and former coworkers, with whom I share this honor. Without their contributions, this would certainly not have been possible."  

Toste's current research(link is external) is principally focused on the development and study of catalysts, catalytic reactions, and methods to address challenges in chemical synthesis and energy. Toste and fellow members of his lab were instrumental in the past decade's advancement of the field of homogeneous catalysis with gold and the introduction of chiral counterions as a paradigm for asymmetric catalysis. In addition, Toste his research group has explored supramolecular catalysts for organic reaction, developed novel methods for merging homogeneous/heterogeneous catalysis and tools for their in situ study, described processes for the conversion of biomass to fuels and chemicals, reported on the application of multivariate analysis for mechanistic studies and, have described a method for selective functionalization of biomolecules.

Douglas Clark, Dean of the College of Chemistry said of his election, "Dean is the latest of our colleagues in the College of Chemistry to be elected into one of the national academies. We are all very proud that he has received this well-deserved recognition for the many contributions he has made over his outstanding career. Dean is a great representative of the high standards we all strive to meet throughout our College."

Toste will be formally inducted as a member at next year’s NAS annual meeting. His membership brings the total number of active NAS members to 2,403.

The NAS was established by a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863.

Honorees recognized for achievements in heavy element chemistry, tectonics, microbial photosynthesis, geological processes, particle physics, and biomolecular engineering.

Six scientists from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have been named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Election as a AAAS Fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers.

AAAS awarded 443 of its members the distinction of Fellow this year for “their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.” The new Fellows from Berkeley Lab are:

  • Rebecca Abergel (Chemical Sciences Division)
  • Roland Bürgmann (Energy Geosciences Division)
  • Cheryl Kerfeld (Environmental Genomics and Systems Biology Division)
  • Michael Manga (Energy Geosciences Division)
  • Natalie Roe (Physics Division)
  • David Schaffer (Molecular Biophysics and Integrated Bioimaging Division)

AAAS Rebecca Abergel

Rebecca Abergel (Photo credit: Marilyn Sargent/Berkeley Lab)

Rebecca Abergel, a faculty scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Chemical Sciences Division and assistant professor in UC Berkeley’s Nuclear Engineering Department, was recognized for her “distinguished contributions to heavy element chemistry, particularly applied to the development of new chelation therapies, separation processes, and radionuclide targeted delivery strategies.”

Abergel joined Berkeley Lab in 2009 as a project scientist. Her research career has included the study of heavy element coordination chemistry and biochemistry, and the design and development of advanced therapeutic and diagnostic agents for the mitigation of human contamination from radioactive heavy metals such as plutonium or uranium.

Abergel was the recipient of a Women Chemists Committee Rising Star Award from the American Chemical Society (2017) and an Early Career award from the U.S. Department of Energy (2014). In 2013, she was granted the Berkeley Lab Director’s Award for Exceptional Scientific Achievement. She heads the BioActinide Chemistry Group, the Heavy Element Chemistry Program, and Heavy Element Research Laboratory, and is the director of the Glenn T. Seaborg Center within Berkeley Lab’s Chemical Sciences Division.

AAAS Roland Burgmann

Roland Bürgmann (Photo courtesy of Roland Bürgmann)

Roland Bürgmann, a faculty scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Energy Geosciences Division and also a professor in UC Berkeley’s Earth and Planetary Science Department, was recognized for “outstanding contributions to research, teaching, innovation, service to societies and to the public in geodynamics, tectonics, rheology, seismology, geodesy and volcanology.”

He heads UC Berkeley’s Active Tectonics Research Group, which focuses on problems relating to fault zone processes and crustal deformation. His recent research projects focus on the active earthquake cycle and post-earthquake deformation in California and along the Denali fault in Alaska and studies of deformation associated with the subduction zone earthquakes in Japan, Chile, and Sumatra.

AAAS Cheryl Kerfeld

Cheryl Kerfeld (Photo courtesy of Cheryl Kerfeld)

Cheryl A. Kerfeld was recognized for her “distinguished contributions to the field of structure of microbial photosynthetic proteins and compartments, particularly the elucidation of design criteria of bacterial microcompartments.” Kerfeld is the Hannah Distinguished Professor of Structural Bioengineering at the Michigan State University (MSU)-DOE Plant Research Laboratory and Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, as well as guest faculty in Berkeley Lab’s Environmental Genomics and Systems Biology and Molecular Biophysics and Integrated Bioimaging divisions.

Kerfeld’s research combines methods in bioinformatics, cellular imaging, and synthetic and structural biology to understand the fundamental principles of bacterial metabolism.

In addition to her ongoing work on bacterial microcompartments and cyanobacterial photoprotection, Kerfeld’s career has also focused on developing and implementing innovative undergraduate biology curriculum. She first worked to improve the curriculum at UCLA, where she had completed her training as a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow. Then, in 2007, she established the Genomics and Bioinformatics Education Program at the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute. The program, nationally recognized as an exemplary contribution to undergraduate education by the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, trains STEM faculty on how bioinformatics tools and resources can be used to help teach students through research projects.

AAAS Michael Manga

Michael Manga (Photo courtesy of Michael Manga)

Michael Manga, a faculty scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Energy Geosciences Division and also chair of UC Berkeley’s Earth and Planetary Science Department, was recognized for “many outstanding contributions to geological processes involving fluids in physical volcanology, geodynamics, hydrogeology, and geomorphology, and for service to academe, government, and societies.”

His current research interests focus on human-induced earthquakes, the behavior of geysers, water on Mars, and volcano science. His work aims to develop a better quantitative understanding of physical processes operating in the Earth.

Natalie Roe

Natalie Roe (Photo courtesy of Natalie Roe)

Natalie Roe, director of Berkeley Lab’s Physics Division since 2012, was recognized for her work in “developing instrumentation that opens new frontiers in experimental particle physics and observational cosmology, and for continuing to build bridges between the fields.”

Roe, a senior scientist, joined Berkeley Lab in 1989 as a postdoctoral fellow. Her particle physics research career has included the analysis of subatomic particle properties in accelerator-based experiments at SLAC and Fermi National Accelerator laboratories, and her cosmology research has involved surveys using telescopes based in Arizona, New Mexico, and Chile.

She has participated in several instrument R&D projects, leading the design and construction of a silicon vertex tracker for the BaBar experiment at SLAC and overseeing the fabrication of red-sensitive charge-coupled device detectors for the Dark Energy Survey as group leader for Berkeley Lab’s Microsystems Laboratory. She also led the upgrade of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey spectrographs as instrument scientist for the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey. She has served on numerous scientific and advisory panels and was named a fellow of the American Physical Society in 2001.

AAAS David Schaffer

David V. Schaffer (Photo credit: Innovative Genomics Institute)

David V. Schaffer was recognized for his “pioneering contributions to biomolecular engineering, with particular attention to directed evolution to create viruses for the efficient, targeted, and safe delivery of gene medicines.” Schaffer is a professor in three UC Berkeley departments – Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Bioengineering, and Neuroscience – and at the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute. He also serves as the director of the Berkeley Stem Cell Center and is a chemist faculty scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Biophysics and Integrated Bioimaging Division.

Schaffer’s research group uses molecular and cellular engineering approaches to design medical gene therapy and stem cell platforms, with a focus on therapeutics targeting neuroregeneration. This work also includes mechanistic studies of stem cell control processes and the evolution of viral gene delivery vehicles.

In addition to his academic positions, he has co-founded four therapeutics companies. The largest company, 4D Molecular Therapeutics, is currently developing viral vector-based treatments for Fabry disease, cystic fibrosis, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and several degenerative eye diseases.

Additional information

The new AAAS Fellows will be presented with an official certificate and a gold and blue rosette pin on Saturday, Feb. 15 at the AAAS Fellows Forum during the 2020 AAAS Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington.

Go here to see the complete list of 2019 AAAS Fellows.

For additional information about AAAS, see

K. Birgitta Whaley, a UC Berkeley professor of chemistry and co-director of the Berkeley Quantum Information and Computation Center, has been appointed to the U.S. President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), the White House announced today (Tuesday, Oct. 22).

Whaley, who is also a faculty scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, was among seven new advisers, the first PCAST members appointed by President Donald Trump since his inauguration three years ago. Upon signing an executive order this morning launching PCAST, President Trump indicated that he would appoint another nine advisers, for a total of 16.

“I am honored to serve on the PCAST advisory council,” Whaley said.

The council was created in 1990 to advise the president on “policy that affects science, technology, and innovation, as well as science and technology information that is needed to inform public policy relating to the economy, energy, environment, public health, national and homeland security, and other topics.” Among other areas, the council will provide policy recommendations on strengthening American leadership in science and technology, building the workforce of the future and supporting foundational research and development across the country.

PCAST is co-led by the president’s science adviser, the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), a position that had remained unfilled for two years until Kelvin Droegemeier was appointed in January 2019.

“Under this administration, science and technology in America continues to advance by leaps and bounds. PCAST will be critical to our continued efforts, with each member bringing a unique expert perspective to the table. By convening a diverse group of our nation’s foremost leaders across a broad range of fields, we can leverage the full innovation ecosystem, solve some of the nation’s greatest challenges and ensure America’s science and technology leadership for generations to come,” Droegemeier said.

Whaley is a foremost expert in the fields of quantum information, quantum physics, molecular quantum mechanics and quantum biology. She has authored more than 230 scientific publications and is a recipient of awards from the Bergmann, Sloan and Alexander von Humboldt foundations. Whaley is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science, and has served as chair of the Division of Quantum Information in the American Physical Society. She earned a B.A. in chemistry from Oxford University and a Ph.D. in chemical physics from the University of Chicago.

The other new advisers are Catherine Bessant of North Carolina, chief operations and technology officer of Bank of America; Dario Gil of New York, director of IBM Research; Sharon Hrynkow of Virginia, senior vice president for medical affairs for Cyclo Therapeutics; H. Fisk Johnson of Wisconsin, CEO and chairman of the board of S. C. Johnson & Son Inc.; Attiganal Sreeram of Michigan, chief technology officer and senior vice president of Dow Inc.; and Shane Wall of Oregon, chief technology officer for HP and director of HP Labs.

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