Greetings from the Department Head

On January 1st, I celebrated my one-year anniversary as head. Looking back over the past year, I couldn’t be more pleased to be serving this department, whose faculty, staff, students, and alumni continue to impress, encourage, and motivate me on a daily basis. Let me fill you in a little on what’s been happening.


As always, our faculty members have been recognized in many ways since I last wrote. Paul Braun, director of the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Lab, was elected as a Fellow of the Materials Research Society. Marty Burke was named a University Scholar, a distinguished honor our campus reserves for its top scholars. Alison Fout was named a Helen Corley Petit Scholar by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS), an award that, like the University Scholar, carries a research stipend. Greg Girolami was admitted to the Royal Society of Chemistry, garnering honors from across the pond. Yi Lu is one of the College’s four faculty ranked among the "most influential researchers worldwide" (one of five university-wide); he was also named to the 2017 Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researchers list, which recognizes “leading researchers in the sciences and social sciences from around the world.” Jeff Moore was selected for the Stanley O. Ikenberry Endowed Chair, one of the highest honors Illinois can bestow on faculty. Ken Suslick was awarded the 2018 Helmholtz-Rayleigh Silver Medal of the Acoustic Society of America, their highest accolade, as well as the American Institute of Chemists 2018 Chemical Pioneer Award. Finally, Renske van der Veen received an NSF CAREER award, which will support her innovative work on ultrafast laser, scattering, and electron microscopy techniques at the Materials Research Lab.

We also extend congratulations to alumnus Jinwoo Cheon (PhD, ’93, Girolami), who has received the 2017-18 Madhuri and Jagdish N. Sheth International Alumni Award for Exceptional Achievement. We look forward to hosting Dr. Cheon this April, when he and other international award recipients will participate in a panel discussion “Connecting Health & Service in a Global Context.”

Be sure to visit our website for the latest awards and other news.


I am pleased to welcome our newest 0% professor, Jianjun Chen, who will be joining the materials area. Chen is a professor in Materials Science in Engineering, where his research focuses on the development of functional molecular, polymeric and nano-materials. “JJ,” as he is known by colleagues, adds important diversity to our research portfolio in materials chemistry.

On the junior faculty hiring front our effort is in full swing this year, with ten interviews since the first of the year.

We are also in the process of searching for a full-time assistant director of diversity who will continue to lead our efforts to promote diversity and foster an inclusive environment for all of our students, faculty, and staff. The new staff member will take up the position vacated by Dr. Ellen Wang Althaus, who took up a similar position with the Graduate College last semester. I am proud of our already-diverse community of scholars, and we look forward to expanding that diversity through these and other efforts in the coming months.


The Carle-Illinois College of Medicine has achieved preliminary accreditation and is now recruiting its inaugural class with full four-year scholarships. The interdisciplinary project has strong participation from chemistry faculty such as Paul Hergenrother, Marty Burke, Catherine Murphy, Christina White, and Wilfred van der Donk. This is an exciting campus initiative, and we look forward to hearing great things when classes begin next fall. Unlike other medical schools, Illinois provides a full fellowship to cover tuition for every one of our MD students.


It’s been a busy time of year for our graduate recruiting staff, who recently completed assessment of 535 applications! Offers have been made to 209 of those students, of whom 93 were women and 25 were under-represented minorities (URMs). Offer rates were 39% overall, 44% for women, and 49% for URMs—a record high for that group, which came in with truly excellent track records. This summer, we plan to institute a summer program for our recently admitted URMs, which will place them in a research group the summer before they matriculate, providing them with a faculty mentor and an introduction to campus, the department, and the research experience.

This issue of the e-news contains a spotlight on our Snyder Scholars. The Snyder program is a great example of partnership towards our collective success, by attracting excellent undergraduates into an intensive summer research program in synthetic chemistry, many of whom apply to Chemistry for graduate school later.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief update, and I invite you to share your own. I’d love to hear from you, whether that means an individual note, a comment via social media (we’re on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!), or sharing your story.

Thank you again for your continued support.


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