David Limmer at UC Berkeley. (Photo: courtesy David Limmer)

The College of Chemistry is pleased to announce that David Limmer, Assistant Chemistry Professor and Chevron Chair in Chemistry, has been awarded a 2021 Fellowship by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation(link is external). He joins the ranks of 126 early-career scholars in several scientific disciplines from Canada and the United States who have been selected for this year.

Matthew Francis, Chair of the Department of Chemistry said of David’s work, “We are very pleased that David has received this significant early career acknowledgement. His current projects address a variety of nanoscale phenomena in systems relevant to basic energy sciences: dissipative chemical dynamics, far-from-equilibrium materials and processes, and nanoscale fluctuations in energy-related materials. His research beautifully combines chemistry, physics and mathematics/computation, leveraging advances in each area to make progress in the theoretical understanding of diverse physical phenomena."

Prof. Limmer's current research program(link is external) develops tools, perspectives and theories that place nonequilibrium chemical physics at the same level of understanding as those of equilibrium ideas, in order to tackle outstanding questions in the physical sciences.  His group pioneers theoretical frameworks and invents molecular simulation techniques, applying each to concrete physical systems, often in concert with experimental collaborators. His research is focused on broad themes of unraveling reactive dynamics in complex environments, elucidating transport processes in nanoscale systems, and understanding emergent behavior in driven and biological matter. The research is tied together by the basic theoretical principles that dictate the dynamical behavior of complex systems, like open quantum systems and stochastic thermodynamics.

About the Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation seeks to stimulate fundamental research by early-career scientists and scholars of outstanding promise with the Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship program. These two-year fellowships are awarded annually to 126 researchers in recognition of distinguished performance and a unique potential to make substantial contributions to their field.

Alfred P. Sloan was elected Chairman of the Board of General Motors in 1937. When he resigned his chairmanship in 1956, he was named Honorary Chairman of the Board, a title he retained until his death in 1966. During the later years of his life, Sloan devoted the largest share of his time and energy to philanthropic activities, both as a private donor to many causes and organizations and through the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which he established in 1934.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) announced the recipients of EERE’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office’s (HFTO’s) inaugural Postdoctoral Recognition Award. The award recognizes postdoctoral fellows from DOE National Laboratories for outstanding contributions in identifying research solutions to hydrogen and fuel cell research challenges.

Recognized postdoctoral fellow runner up Guosong Zeng from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory for research contributions to advance light-activated semiconductor cathodes to produce hydrogen via photoelectrochemical water splitting.

Please visit the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy for the full press release.

The American Chemical Society has granted the Arthur C. Cope Award to John Hartwig.

John Hartwig is a senior faculty scientist who leads the Catalysis and Chemical Transformations program in the Chemical Sciences Division. At UC Berkeley, he is a professor in the Department of Chemistry and holds the title of Henry Rapoport Chair in Organic Chemistry.

An awards ceremony for the ACS 2021 National Awards recipients will take place on March 23 during the American Chemical Society 2021 Spring National Meeting in San Antonio, Texas.

Visit Elements for the press release

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.

Heavy-element chemist joins ranks of notable scientists and scholars dedicated to furthering interdisciplinary and international research.

Prominent heavy-element chemist Polly Arnold has been elected a member of Academia Europaea. Her research focuses on advancing our understanding of the bonding and reactivity of heavy elements, the elements of the f-block of the periodic table. Arnold was recently appointed Chemical Sciences Division Director at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). Concurrent with her role at Berkeley Lab, she will also join the Chemistry Department faculty at UC Berkeley in January 2020. 

Before her appointment as Chemical Sciences Division Director at Berkeley Lab, Arnold served as the Crum Brown Chair of Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh. Among her many other awards and honors, she is also a Fellow of the Royal Society, and was awarded the 2012 Rosalind Franklin Award and Order of the British Empire in 2017 for her outstanding contributions to chemistry and women in STEM. 
Founded in 1988, Academia Europaea is a European, nongovernmental association dedicated to the advancement and propagation of excellence in scholarship in the humanities; law; the economic, social, and political sciences; mathematics; medicine; and all branches of natural and technological sciences anywhere in the world for the public benefit, and for the advancement of the education of the public of all ages. Its aim is to promote European research, advise governments and international organizations in scientific matters, and further interdisciplinary and international research.

Academia Europaea’s members are scientists and scholars who collectively aim to promote learning, education, and research. Its approximately 3,800 members include 72 Nobel laureates in addition to leading experts from the physical sciences and technology, biological sciences and medicine, mathematics, the letters and humanities, social and cognitive sciences, economics and the law. 

Distinguished chemist from the University of Edinburgh will join Berkeley Lab in late September this year.

Renowned heavy-element chemist Polly Arnold has been appointed Chemical Sciences Division Director within the Energy Sciences Area at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). Arnold will join Berkeley Lab in late September this year. Concurrent with her role at Berkeley Lab, she will also join the Chemistry Department faculty at UC Berkeley in January 2020. The announcement follows an international search.

Arnold comes from the University of Edinburgh where she is the Crum Brown Chair of Chemistry. Her research focuses on advancing our understanding of the bonding and reactivity of heavy elements, the elements of the f-block of the periodic table.

Among her many awards and honors, Arnold is a Fellow of the Royal Society, and was awarded the 2012 Rosalind Franklin Award and Order of the British Empire in 2017 for her outstanding contributions to chemistry and women in STEM.

“We are excited to welcome Dr. Arnold to Berkeley Lab,” said Berkeley Lab Director Mike Witherell. “She is truly a remarkable scientist whose impressive leadership in chemistry will help us sustain our world-class science. In addition, she is committed to our goal of fostering a greater culture of inclusion here at the Lab.”

“I have always been hugely impressed with the brilliance and diversity of science that is carried out here, and by the value the Lab also places on the diversity of its people,” Arnold said. “I’m looking forward to working with all my new colleagues, and on a personal note, bringing in my own research on some of the heaviest elements that were first discovered at Berkeley Lab, one of the Department of Energy’s oldest national laboratories.”

With the Franklin Award, Arnold created the short film “A Chemical Imbalance” as a call to action for simple changes to achieve equality of opportunity in science. She has worked with many governments and learned societies worldwide on diversity, equity, and inclusion, and launched a support network for senior women in STEM careers in Scotland called SciSisters. In 2018, Arnold discussed her research in an episode of the BBC podcast Brainwaves.

Arnold received her doctorate in chemistry from Sussex University and was a Fulbright postdoctoral scholar at MIT. She began her independent career in inorganic chemistry at the University of Nottingham before joining the University of Edinburgh’s EaStCHEM School of Chemistry.

Arnold has been a visiting lecturer in China, the United States, Germany, and France. Her group designs and produces new reactive molecules that are challenging preconceived ideas of f-block chemistry. The 4f-row, or rare earth elements, whose salts are as common as iodine and 10 times less toxic than those of iron, offer great potential for the catalytic conversions of simple inert molecules needed for a future, renewable-based chemical industry.

Controlling the chemistry of the radioactive metals of the 5f-row, the actinides, underpins the long-term, safe management of our nuclear waste legacy. Arnold combines synthetic organometallic techniques with new methodologies to control their reactivity, elicit unprecedented behaviors, and isolate molecules with previously unseen electronic structures and reactivities across the f-block.

A list of Arnold’s publications is available here.

In 2002, the physics community was shocked by two high-profile cases of data fabrication—the Schön scandal and controversy surrounding the discovery of element 118—spurring calls to more effectively confront ethical issues in the practice of physics. Then two years later, an APS task force identified other issues in physics beyond faulty data collection, including poor treatment of subordinates.

As a result, APS began releasing ethics statements over the years to promote best practices in physics. The chair line of the Panel on Public Affairs (POPA) at APS has been traditionally responsible for evaluating issues of ethics and reviewing ethics statements, but a new Ethics Committee, which convened for the first time on June 6, will now lead the charge for promoting ethical practices by APS members.

The eleven-member standing committee includes the past chair of POPA and representatives from the Committee on the Status of Women in Physics, the Committee on Scientific Publications, the Committee on Minorities, and the Committee on Education, and six other voting members from a variety of backgrounds.

“We tried to draw pretty broadly across APS for stakeholders and expertise, in particular on matters that come up in ethics,” says Frances Houle, a member of the committee. “That is, matters having to do with treatment of people and having to do with preservation and protection of the scientific record.”

Erin Creel, a PhD candidate in UC Berkeley's department of chemistry and research affiliate at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, was selected as the 2019 graduate student recipient of the UC Berkeley Chancellor's Award for Civic Engagement for her exceptional commitment to advancing social change through public service. Erin is the steering committee chair for Bay Area Scientists in Schools (BASIS), an organization that brings over 500 free hands-on science and engineering to Bay Area elementary schools annually. Erin's lesson on renewable energy and climate change helps to teach fourth graders the basics of solar, wind, and water power.

Two Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) scientists have been elected to the Royal Society of London, the oldest scientific academic society in continuous existence:

Inez Fung, faculty scientist, Earth and Environmental Sciences Area, and a professor of earth and planetary science and of environmental science, policy, and management at UC Berkeley, has been elected as a Foreign Member of the Royal Society. Fung models the processes that maintain and alter the composition of the atmosphere and the climate.

Martin Head-Gordon, senior faculty scientist, Chemical Sciences Division, and the Kenneth S. Pitzer Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at UC Berkeley, has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of London. Head-Gordon develops and applies methods to predict the electronic structure of new and interesting molecules. He also leads Berkeley Lab’s Gas Phase Chemical Physics program, and is a scientist and principal investigator at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, a DOE Energy Innovation Hub, in Berkeley Lab’s Chemical Sciences Division.

The two are among the learned society’s 51 new fellows, 10 new foreign members, and one new honorary member.

The Royal Society dates back to 1660, and today is the UK’s national science academy with a fellowship of some 1,600 of the world’s most eminent scientists.

“Over the course of the Royal Society’s vast history, it is our fellowship that has remained a constant thread and the substance from which our purpose has been realized: to use science for the benefit of humanity,” said society president Venki Ramakrishnan. “This year’s newly elected Fellows and Foreign Members of the Royal Society embody this, being drawn from diverse fields of enquiry – epidemiology, geometry, climatology — at once disparate, but also aligned in their pursuit and contributions of knowledge about the world in which we live. It is with great honor that I welcome them as Fellows of the Royal Society.”

John Hartwig, head of the Catalysis and Chemical Transformations Program in the Chemical Sciences Division and professor of chemistry at UC Berkeley, has been awarded the Wolf Prize in Chemistry for the development of efficient transition-metal catalysts that have revolutionized drug manufacturing. More>

John Hartwig, head of the Catalysis and Chemical Transformations Program in the Chemical Sciences Division and professor of chemistry at UC Berkeley, has been awarded the Wolf Prize in Chemistry for the development of efficient transition-metal catalysts that have revolutionized drug manufacturing. More>

Francesca M. Toma included in Royal Society of Chemistry's "100 Women of Materials Science".

As a response to a report on the Diversity landscape of the chemical sciences that was published earlier this year, RSC recognizes the need for initiatives aimed at actively overcoming barriers, to aid the retention of women in academia and encourage their progression to leadership positions.

This collection aims to contribute towards this goal by showcasing high-quality work by female scientists, both to celebrate their own achievements in the field and to act as an inspiration for early career researchers within the community.

The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) was founded in 1841 and is the UK’s largest professional body for chemical scientists with 54,000 members and an international publishing and knowledge business.

Link to RSC Celebrating Excellence in Research: Women of Materials Science

Link to the RSC report on Diversity

Frances Houle, CSD Senior Scientist and Deputy Director of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, has been elected to a three year term as member of the Board of Directors of the Materials Research Society (2019-2021). The MRS is an interdisciplinary society focused on all aspects of materials science from chemical, biological, physics and engineering perspectives with a goal of improving quality of life. It has approximately 14,000 members from 90 countries, representing numerous academic, industrial, nonprofit and government institutions. Members of the BOD are responsible for the Society’s technical and organization governance, and work to formulate policy and strategy to advance the Society’s mission. More>