Greetings from the Department Head

Welcome to the summer edition of our e-newsletter! We launched this initiative last August, and I hope that you have enjoyed receiving updates as much as we have enjoyed sending them. Our goal is to develop a robust two-way communication, and to that end, I encourage you to be in touch – let us know what you’d like to see more of!

Here are a few updates on our recent activities and upcoming projects.



We recently graduated another outstanding group of students. This year’s convocation address was given by ACS President Peter Dorhout (BS, ’85). Be sure to read his remarks and check out photo highlights here.

We also had some great news about our graduates in general. The latest Illini Success survey—a university initiative to track post-graduation plans—shows that 87% of Illinois graduates in the chemical sciences secure first destinations after graduation.

We have no doubt that our class of 2018 will prove no exception, and we fully expect to hear great things from our newest alumni!



Once again, I am proud to showcase the impressive achievements of our faculty and students.

Jeff Chan has been selected as a 2018 Scialog Fellow by Research Corporation for Science Advancement. Fellows are selected based on their promise as early to mid-career investigators working on the chemistry or biology of the cell or related research areas. Scott Denmark was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest professional honors a scientist can receive. Denmark is one of 84 new members and 21 foreign associates recognized for distinguished and continuing achievements in original research and is the only one from Illinois this year. Alison Fout was named the first recipient of the Emerging Investigator in Bioinorganic Chemistry Award. John Katzenellenbogen received the 2018 American Association for Cancer Research Award for Outstanding Achievement in Chemistry in Cancer Research. Doug Mitchell was recently approved by the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences as an Alumni Scholar, a named faculty position that carries a $15,000/year research stipend. Jeff Moore won the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Stephanie L. Kwolek Award, which recognizes exceptional contributions to the area of materials chemistry from a scientist working outside the UK. And Ken Suslick received the 2018 American Institute of Chemists’ Chemical Pioneer Award “for pioneering research on chemical sensing and molecular recognition and other efforts on sonochemistry and sonoluminescence.”

Our students have been successful, too, with 11 receiving NSF graduate research fellowships, and another 4 receiving honorable mention.

Be sure to visit our website for the latest awards and other news. You can also read more about Scott Denmark and John Katzenellenbogen in this issue of the e-news.



Our colleagues Alison Fout and Joaquín Rodriguez-López were promoted to associate professor with tenure this year, and our colleague Doug Mitchell to full professor. Congrats to all of them!

I am also excited to announce that Dr. Lisa Olshansky will join our inorganic chemistry area this summer. Olshansky did a postdoctoral fellowship with Andy Borovik at UC Irvine, following her PhD at MIT where she pursued a collaboration between Professors Nocera and Stubbe. Her PhD work focused on biophysics of electron transfer, whereas her postdoc moved up to the supramolecular chemistry scale. Lisa's future projects include probing dynamics of metalloproteins, and using excited state charge separation to control reversibility of reactions.

As we look forward to welcoming Dr. Olshansky to campus, we are sad to say goodbye to two colleagues who will be leaving: Kami Hull, who is moving to UT Austin, and Ben McCall, who will be directing a sustainability center at University of Dayton. I thank them for the excellent research, teaching, and service they have provided, and we all wish them the best for this next stage in their scientific adventures.



It is with great sadness that I report the passing of our emeritus colleague William H. 'Bill' Pirkle, an extraordinarily humble and gifted chemist who made a difference not just in his field of chiral separation, but as a mentor and all-around, avuncular, quirky chemist. Bill will certainly be missed.



In April, Jinwoo Cheon (PhD, ’93, Girolami), traveled to campus from South Korea to accept the 2018 Madhuri and Jagdish N. Sheth International Alumni Award for Exceptional Achievement. He and other international award recipients were panelists on the topic “Connecting Health & Service in a Global Context,” which generated lively conversation and questions from the audience.

James Spudich (BS, '63) also made an award-related campus visit. He was here in May to accept the University of Illinois Alumni Achievement Award for 2018. While in Urbana, Prof. Spudich gave a lecture to our students and faculty, which was very well received.

If you have any news to share, please let us know here so that we can help spread the word!



This October 15-16, we will celebrate the 90th birthday of Ted Brown, former Chemistry department head and founding director of the Beckman Institute, in recognition of his many contributions to the University of Illinois.

Finally, I would like to invite you to the Illinois Chemistry alumni reception on August 19 in conjunction with the ACS National Meeting in Boston – and to remind you that we host these during every ACS National Meeting. If you have not been receiving invitations to these events, please let us know.

Thank you again for reading, and I hope to see you at ACS in August, or on campus in October!


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