Greetings from the Department Head

Greetings from Chemistry at Illinois!

Welcome to the first edition of the Chemistry e-newsletter! I hope you enjoy the quarterly updates, and I invite you to be in touch. We love to hear what our alumni are up to!

I took over the headship from Greg Girolami in January, inheriting an outstanding department with talented students, award-winning faculty, and dedicated staff. I am grateful for this opportunity, and I am committed to continuing our long tradition of excellence during my time in this role.

I was surprised to find out from Greg that there had been only sixteen department heads before me  a small number for almost 150 years of activity!


Speaking of which… 2017 is the University's (and Chemistry’s!) sesquicentennial year, and we invite you to celebrate with us in October. Our signature event is the official opening of the newly remodeled Chemistry Annex, featuring Chancellor Robert Jones and other special guests. Festivities will also include the presentation of a plaque from the American Chemical Society (ACS) for Herb Gutowsky's ground-breaking work in nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. We expect to see many of our alumni and friends on campus, and I hope that you will be one of them.


It has been a successful year for Chemistry so far. On January 1st, I jumped right into the fray of faculty hiring, and I'm glad to report that Hee-Sun Han, an outstanding young bioanalytical chemist from Harvard, will be joining us in the fall as the Mark S. Pytosh Scholar and Assistant Professor. Han’s research focuses on the use of quantum dots to understand chemical signaling in tissues, and she will set up her research group in Roger Adams Lab.

Several current faculty also received new appointments: Cathy Murphy (Larry R. Faulkner Endowed Chair), So Hirata (Marvin T. Schmidt Professor), Andy Gewirth (Peter C. and Gretchen Miller Markunas Professor), and Christina White (Alumni Scholar).

Additionally, Jeff Moore accepted a position as director of the Beckman Institute (following Ted Brown and Jiri Jonas as previous directors from Chemistry), and Marty Burke has agreed to serve as interim associate dean for research in our new Carle Illinois College of Medicine, forging close ties between medicine and chemistry on campus.

These appointments reflect both the outstanding scientific profile of our faculty, as well as the generosity of Chemistry's alumni and friends, so thank you for your support!



Our faculty and students have done well with awards this year as well. Recent honorees include Scott Denmark, a new fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Jeff Moore, a new member of the National Academy of Sciences. 2017 also saw three of our professors elected as permanent faculty to the Center of Advanced Study, three young faculty garnering Sloan Awards, and several students receiving National Science Foundation (NSF) graduate fellowships. See more awards here.

Congratulations are also due to alumnus Steve Elledge (BS, '78), who received the 2017 University of Illinois Alumni Achievement Award.


In May, the department graduated 213 students, with 49 receiving a doctorate and 164 receiving a bachelor's in chemistry or in liberal arts and sciences. The commencement speech by alumnus Mike Sofia (PhD, '84) was exciting and well received. The molecule Sofia helped develop has essentially cured hepatitis C, a disease formerly considered practically incurable, and he has set his high sights on hepatitis B as his next target.


In closing, I reiterate my earlier invitation to stay in touch. I’d love to hear your stories and comments — including any thoughts you might have on our new website, which I hope you’ll take some time to explore!

It's been an exciting first semester for me, and I will continue working diligently to keep our department at the forefront of chemistry research and education in the U.S. and in the world. Thank you for your partnership in this effort.


Martin Gruebele
Head, Department of Chemistry
James R. Eiszner Chair in Chemistry
Professor in the Center for Advanced Study
Professor of Physics
Professor of Biophysics and Quantitative Biology