Chair’s Letter Fall 2017

Dear IU Chemistry Colleagues and Alumni,

I am delighted to share some of the achievements and highlights from the Department of Chemistry in 2017.

This past year, we celebrated a number of promotions. Prof. Kevin Brown is now an associate professor with tenure, Prof. Sara Skrabalak achieved full professor, and Dr. Laura Brownearned senior lecturer. In addition, Drs. Piotr Mroz and Yuriy Sereda were promoted to the rank of assistant scientist, and Dr. Hongwei Wu is now an associate scientist.

In January 2017, Prof. Xingchen Xe joined our department in the area of materials chemistry. His research program is primarily directed toward the precision synthesis of colloidal nanocrystals and their integration into mesoscale assemblies for energy conversion.

Our faculty continue to garner top awards locally and at the national and international levels. Prof. Sara Skrabalak won the FRED Award (Frontiers in Research Excellence and Discovery) from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement to further her studies in nanomaterials synthesis. She was also selected to receive a Fulbright Award to Spain to pursue research in nanomaterial assembly and chemical sensing and a Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship to investigate phase transformations in nanomaterials. Prof. David Williams is the recipient of the ACS Ernest Guenther Award in the Chemistry of Natural Products for his outstanding contributions in the area of total synthesis of natural products. Prof. Dennis Peters was elected as a Fellow of the American Chemical Society for his outstanding mentorship and classroom teaching of graduate and undergraduate students and for his excellence in research involving organic electrochemistry. Prof. Yan Yu received a Sloan Research Fellowship in Chemistry to continue development of quantitative approaches to understand dynamics and interactions in cellular processes. Prof. Jeffrey Zaleski was named an IU Provost Professor, Prof. Jonathan Schlebach won the JBC Herb Taylor Young Investigator Award, Prof. Milos Novotny received the Memorial Medal of the Pardubice University (Czech Republic), and Prof. Nicola Pohl was selected as a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard University. Drs. Lane Baker, Yan Yu, and Jill Robinson are our most recent winners of the IU Trustee Teaching Award, which highlights their efforts in the classroom. For the staff, Ms. Judi Roberts won the IU Staff Merit Award for Support Staff for her outstanding service and contributions to our department.

Over the past year, our endowed lecture series continued to support visits by a number of prominent scientists. The spring series featured the Raymond Siedle Distinguished Lecturer, Prof. Gerard Parkin from Columbia University; the Frank C. Mathers

Distinguished Lecturer, Catherine J. Murphy from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champagne; and the Ernest Campaigne Distinguished Lecturer, Prof. Steven V. Ley from the University of Cambridge. The fall series included the V.J. Shiner Distinguished Lecturer, Prof. Amir H. Hoveyda from Boston College, and the Frank T. Gucker Distinguished Lecturer, Prof. Cynthia M. Friend from Harvard University. Chemistry also hosted a number of outstanding speakers in two symposia this past fall. The 27th Inorganic Alumni Symposium was held on Friday, September 29, and included invited speakers Dr. David Dye, scientist at NSWC Crane Division; Prof. Skye Fortier, assistant professor at the University of Texas, El Paso; Dr. Linfeng Gou, associate scientist at Quaker Chemical Corp.; and Dr. Roger Kuhlman, scientist at Dow Chemical Co. The 8th Annual Watanabe Symposium in Chemical Biology was held on Saturday, September 30 and, this year, had the theme of biomolecular machines. Guest speakers included Prof. Angela Gronenborn from the University of Pittsburgh, Prof. Taekjip Ha from Johns Hopkins University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Prof. Jody Puglisi from Stanford University, and Prof. Robert Sauer from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Lectures from these distinguished speakers were augmented by excellent presentations from our own Profs. Stephen Bell and Michael VanNieuwenhze.

Through the National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation Program, we were fortunate to receive two awards this year to acquire new instruments for Chemistry. Prof. Lane Baker spearheaded a proposal for a nanoimprint lithography instrument, and Dr. Jonathan Karty led a successful effort for a high resolution gas chromatograph–mass spectrometry instrument. Our Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program also sponsored by NSF continued in summer 2017. Ten undergraduates from across the United States participated in this highly competitive 9-week program, focused on nanoscale assembly of molecules and materials. The REU students along with graduate students and postdoctoral fellows from the department presented their research at the 4th Annual Symposium on Materials Research. The Symposium was highlighted by a keynote lecture given by Dr. Nelson M. Felix from the IBM Corporation.

The College of Arts and Sciences at IU has developed a strategic plan to guide and direct research and teaching over the next decade. The College is now working on an implementation plan to set into motion what is outlined in the strategic plan. We hope the combination of the strategic and implementation plans will bring new research and instructional opportunities to Chemistry. In parallel, the department underwent an external review in spring 2017. Prof. Lane Baker did an outstanding job of coordinating the external review and devoted an inordinate amount of time preparing the review and response documents. Overall, the review was a positive experience and provided a chance for us to reflect on the state of the department and to receive feedback from the external review committee on what we do well and on areas we need to improve. We have now begun to work on many of the suggestion made during the review.

As many of you know, fluctuations in funding from the university, state, and federal agencies continue to impact our ability to educate the next generation of chemists and keep our department at the forefront of research. The entire department and I are extremely grateful for your continued and generous support. Without the contributions of our alumni, friends, and colleagues, we would certainly struggle to meet our research and educational goals. This fall, we launched a new website for Chemistry, so please check out the latest news and information about the department at

Please stop by and visit us!

Stephen Jacobson