Greetings from the Department Head

We recently welcomed back thousands of students to campus. Our chancellor, Dr. Robert Jones, has been especially hard at work preparing for their return.

As they all begin to settle into the routine of a new semester and new academic year, I invite you to catch up on our recent activities and meet our own newest class of students.



Every year we have the privilege to welcome the next generation of Illini chemists. Our graduate recruiting efforts this past year have paid off, with our underrepresented minority (URM) population up from 11.7% to 14.7% since last year. Here’s a quick look at our newest class:

We have 68 new graduate students, including 67 PhD and 1 MSTC, 37 male and 31 female, and 53 domestic and 15 international.

There are 76 undergraduate students in our class of 2023, with 54 in the specialized curriculum and 22 in the BSLAS program, 42 male and 34 female, and 62 domestic and 14 international.

We look forward to the accomplishments of these students as they begin the next stage of their academic journey.



On the faculty side, our newest hires, Mei Shen and Angad Mehta, are settling in nicely as they begin to build up their research programs. Christina White has been named the William H. and Janet G. Lycan Professor in the School of Chemical Sciences. Liviu Mirica, who is also a William H. and Janet G. Lycan Professor, will be invested at a campus ceremony this fall.



Despite the summer “break,” our students and faculty have continued to receive numerous accolades for their excellence in teaching and research.


Martin Burke received the iCON Innovator Award. Prashant Jain received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. Jeffrey Moore received the ACS Award in Polymer Chemistry. Catherine Murphy received the ACS Award in Inorganic Chemistry. Ken Suslick received the Joel Henry Hildebrand Award in the Theoretical & Experimental Chemistry of Liquids. And Jonathan Sweedler received the CASSS Award for Outstanding Achievements in Separation Science.


Yuanheng (Henry) Wang, an undergraduate in Renske van der Veen’s lab, received the ACS Undergraduate Award in Physical Chemistry for the University of Illinois. Two graduate students in David Sarlah’s group were recognized for research achievements: Yaroslav Boyko received a Bristol-Myers Squibb Graduate Fellowship in Synthetic Organic Chemistry and Lucas William Hernandez received the Alfred R. Bader Award for Student Innovation. And Lauren Hagler (Steve Zimmerman group) received the inaugural Women in Chemistry (WIC) Inclusive Leadership Award.


St. Elmo Brady (PhD, 1916) will be a posthumous recipient of the Sankofa Award from the University of Illinois Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Peixin He (PhD, ‘85, Faulkner) and Xiaoming Chen, longtime supporters and friends of Chemistry at Illinois, will receive the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences’ Dean’s Quadrangle Award.


Finally, the teaching labs in Chemistry Annex and Noyes Lab both received the Environmental Impact Achievement Award from the University of Illinois in recognition of their efforts to recycle lab materials and their contributions to the university’s overall recycling and sustainability goals.

Congratulations to all our honorees. For more information on the above awards and for the most up-to-date listing of new awards, visit our website.



One of the best ways we can prepare our students for the future is to let them hear directly from those who have already walked the same path. To better enable these alumni/student connections, we recently instituted an annual alumni career panel event, whereby our students can learn from alumni with a variety of experiences and successes in academia, industry, and beyond. This year’s panel will take place in conjunction with Homecoming Week, October 13-19.

If you’ll be in town for Homecoming, the UI Foundation’s annual meeting, or for any other event this fall, please let us know. We’d love to connect!

Until next time.



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