Greetings from the Department Head

Many of you have likely experienced the negative (literally!) effects of the recent “polar vortex.” Urbana was no exception. We had at least one day of temperatures well below zero with windchills reaching minus 40 degrees—prompting a rare cancellation of classes across campus. Thankfully, the extreme cold was short-lived, and we have returned to the normal cold of February in the Midwest.

In addition to warmer weather, here are some of the things we’re looking forward to this spring—as well as a recap of recent activities since my last note.



We recently had the great privilege to honor the legacy of alumnus St. Elmo Brady (PhD, 1916, Derick), the first African-American to receive a PhD in chemistry in the United States. On behalf of the American Chemical Society (ACS), fellow alumnus Peter Dorhout (BS, ’85) presented a plaque to designate an ACS National Historical Chemical Landmark in recognition of Brady’s significant contributions to chemical education.

As part of the celebration, Oregon-based Portal Theatre performed No Belles, a production highlighting significant scientific contributions by women who either won, or were overlooked for, the Nobel Prize.

You can read more about these events in this issue’s feature story.



I am as pleased as ever that “Awards and Honors” is a recurring section in our e-newsletter. Its regularity, of course, points to the continued recognition of the excellent work of our faculty, students, and alumni.

Jefferson Chan was named a Fellow in the Center for Advanced Study for academic year 2019-20. Prashant Jain, Yi Lu, and Catherine Murphy were all named to the 2018 Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researchers list—three of the nine University of Illinois faculty recognized with that honor. Liviu Mirica was named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry. And Dave Sarlah received the Swiss Chemical Society’s Grammaticakis-Neumann Award.

Our ACS Student Chapter, advised by Joaquín Rodríguez López, received an Honorable Mention for activities conducted during the 2017-18 academic year.

Belinda Pacheco Johnson, a PhD candidate in the Dlott group, was a finalist in the Graduate College’s fourth annual Research Live! showcase this past fall.

Finally, alumnus Peter D. Senter (PhD, ’81, Coates) was one of six chemists from Seattle Genetics recognized with a 2018 ACS Heroes of Chemistry Award for their work to develop ADCETRIS, an innovative drug used in the treatment of Hodgkin’s lymphoma.



Coming up this spring, we look forward to investing Zan Luthey-Schulten as the Murchison-Mallory Endowed Chair in Chemistry on March 14th here on campus. Investitures serve as a wonderful opportunity to celebrate not only the achievements of our faculty but the generosity of our alumni and friends, whose support plays such a crucial role in our success.

Just a couple weeks later, we will be in Orlando for the ACS National Meeting. Please join us for our Alumni and Friends Reception on Sunday night.

As always, please stay in touch. I hope to see you in Orlando—or on campus soon!


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