Greetings from the Department Head

Time flies – when you read this, our incoming PhD class of 2018 will be making their final choice of graduate school, and it won’t be long until our commencement in May. Our speaker this year is none other than the president of the ACS himself, Peter Dorhout (BS, ’85). In the meantime, it’s been a busy semester for us, with the inauguration of our new Center for Theoretical Chemistry in Noyes Lab and many other activities.



Our faculty continue to accumulate accolades and recognition for their innovative research and dedicated service. Some examples: Greg Girolami was selected to receive the 2018 campus award for Excellence in Graduate and Professional Teaching. Kami Hull was named the Genentech Graduate Student Symposium keynote lecturer for 2018, an award sponsored by their Small Molecule Discovery and Process Chemistry Departments. Research Professor John A. Katzenellenbogen received the Award for Outstanding Achievement in Chemistry in Cancer Research from the American Association for Cancer Research. Thomas B. Rauchfuss received the ACS Award for Distinguished Service in the Advancement of Inorganic Chemistry. And Jonathan Sweedler received the 2018 American Diabetes Association’s Visionary Award.

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



I am excited to announce that Dr. Lloyd Munjanja has accepted our offer as full-time Assistant Director of Graduate Diversity and Program Climate. He takes over a position that tackles some of the most important issues in the department to enable the success of all our students, staff, and faculty. He will work especially closely with me, Wilfred van der Donk, and Scott Silverman, as well as the Department of Chemistry Graduate Student Advisory Committee and graduate student organizations, and he will be an important liaison between our students and the department. Munjanja will join our team on May 14, 2018. 



As you know, we always have substantial representation of our faculty and students at the ACS national meetings—whether they are receiving awards, giving talks, presenting posters, or simply there to learn from and collaborate with their colleagues.

This year, Kali Serrano, a fourth-year Chemistry PhD student in Paul Braun’s research group, co-hosted a workshop titled “Developing Leadership Skills in Academic Laboratory Safety.” Serrano, who currently serves in a prestigious role as the only graduate student on the ACS National Committee on Chemical Safety, provided a brief write-up of the workshop and her other efforts related to lab safety and student safety programs, which we feature in this issue of the e-news. I hope you’ll take a moment to learn more about the impressive things she’s doing, along with other students at Illinois and across the nation.

We also had a nice showing of alumni, faculty, and students at our department reception. Thanks to all who joined! We hope to see even more of you in August when ACS returns to Boston.



This issue contains a spotlight on alumna Yulan Tong (MS, ’58; PhD, ’61) and her establishment of the Sylvia M. Stoesser Lecture in Chemistry series, which we featured in March as part of Women’s History Month. I hope you enjoy the story. We will continue to share stories like these in celebration of the impact of our alumni and friends, whose generous support plays such a crucial role in our success.



Finally, I am excited to introduce our “Getting to Know” series, in which we will spotlight individual alumni, students, and faculty. Thanks to Bill Pittman (PhD, ’60, Snyder) for going first! You can read his story on our website, and keep an eye out for more spotlights in the future. They will also be shared via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

If you’d like to be featured, please send an email to with “Getting to Know” in the subject.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be in touch again before long.



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