MIT Reports to the President 1994-95

Department of Chemistry

In the 1994-1995 academic year, the Chemistry Department continued its strong program in undergraduate and graduate education and research. The department currently has 32 active faculty, 94 postdoctoral researchers, 240 graduate students and 119 undergraduate majors.

The Department was recently ranked number one in USA chemistry department's by US News and World Report.


Professor Chris (Kit) Cummins along with Catalina Laplaza achieved a goal that chemists have tried to do for over thirty years, that of splitting the nitrogen molecules that are the major components of the atmosphere. Cummins cleaved the strong bonds in the nitrogen molecule by reacting it with a molybdenum complex at ordinary temperatures and pressures. This work received much press coverage, including interviews with major news networks.

Professor Stephen J. Lippard and his students have crystallized and solved the structure of the 25lkD protein, methane monooxygenase (MMO). This protein is required by certain bacteria to act as an enzyme for the oxidation of methane to methanol.

Professors Mark Wrighton, and his coworkers, and Professor Charles Lieber, and his coworkers, at Harvard have mapped the spatial arrangement of chemical functional groups on a surface by attaching specific chemical groups on a probe tip of an atomic force microscope. The technique, called "chemical force microscopy" was presented as a new chemically-specific imaging technique. It can be used to measure both adhesion and friction forces between specific molecular groups and may be useful in molecular studies of adhesion and lubrication, as well as in interfacial phenomena of metal, polymer and biological systems.

Several new educational initiatives are underway in the Department and include the introduction of computer animation and graphics in the undergraduate lecture courses, seminars in environmental chemistry, and the development of a new laboratory course in biological chemistry. An extensive series of lecture demonstrations was introduced into the introductory courses, in part to compensate for the absence of experimental laboratory work in the first year.


Fourteen faculty are members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; 9 faculty (and two emeritus) are members of the National Academy of Sciences; 3 faculty are members of the National Institute of Medicine.

Professor Emeritus Robert Alberty was elected by the International Union of Pure Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), Commission on Thermodynamics to deliver the Rossini Lecture on the occasion of the 14th International Conference on Chemical Thermodynamics to be held in Osaka, Japan in 1996.

Professor Klaus Biemann was the recipient of the 1995 Beckman-ABRF Award presented at the annual meeting of the Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities (ABRF).

Professor Rick Danheiser won a Cope Scholar Award from the American Chemical Society.

Dr. Gregory C. Fu was awarded an American Cancer Society Junior Faculty Research Award.

Professor Stephen J. Lippard was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Texas A&M University.

Professor Hans-Conrad zur Loye was awarded the 1994 Exxon Faculty Fellowship in Solid State Chemistry. The recipient is chosen as on the basis of past performance and on the promise of future contributions to the knowledge of synthesis, reactivity, structure and bonding in solids.

Professor Alex Kilbanov was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Professor Dietmar Seyferth was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Professor Larry Stern received a National Science Foundation Career Development Award in June of 1995.

Professor Tidor, in collaboration with Professor Robert T. Sauer had their proposal, "Molecular Recognition in a Protein-DNA Complex," selected by the Science Council to be funded as a Science Partnership award.


Professors Moungie Bawendi and Jamie Williamson were promoted to associate professors without tenure.

Two new faculty members were appointed Assistant Professors: Professor Lawrence J. Stern who received his Ph.D. in 1989 with Professor H.G. Khorana of the Chemistry Department, and Professor Bruce Tidor who received his Ph.D. with Professor Karplus at Harvard in June 1990.

Professor Fred Greene retired on June 30, 1995 after 42 years of dedicated service to the chemistry department. He will be missed by all.

Professor Emeritus Clark C. Stephenson died last November; he had taught in the Department from 1936-1977.

Mark S.Wrighton left the Institute to become Chancellor and Professor of Chemistry at Washington University in St. Louis, MO.


The Chemistry Department was privileged to host distinguished scientists in endowed lectureships during the past academic year.


In the Fall of 1994 the Department admitted 41 students to the graduate program. The Department awarded 2 M.S. degrees and 38 Ph.D. degrees this year. The Senior Recognition Dinner was held on May 17, 1995, and various awards were presented.


Ms. Alexandra (Sandy) Gould received an American Chemical Society's Division of Organic Chemistry Graduate Fellowship sponsored by Organic Reactions and John Wiley and Sons, Inc. She also was awarded the Roche Award for Excellence in Organic Chemistry from Hoffmann-LaRoche, Inc.

Jonathan Paul O'Brien, a student of Professor Field's, was selected by the International Symposium on Molecular Spectroscopy as one of the three winners of the 1994 "Rao Prizes".

Christopher Willoughby received the First Annual Award Symposium for the Roche Award for Excellence in Organic Chemistry for his work on "the Asymmetric Hydrogenation of Imines with a Chiral Titanocene Catalyst."

Edward Wintner received the American Chemical Society's Division of Organic Chemistry Graduate Fellowship for the 1994-1995 Academic Year.

Stephen J. Lippard

MIT Reports to the President 1994-95