Previous Fora / 2011

MATHIES, Richard A.

Professor, University of California, Berkeley

Richard A. Mathies received his B. S. Degree in Chemistry in 1968 at the University of Washington and the Ph. D. in 1973 in Physical Chemistry at Cornell University from Andreas Albrecht.   Following two years of postdoctoral study as a Helen Hay Whitney Postdoctoral Fellow at Yale with Lubert Stryer, he moved to the Chemistry Department at the University of California at Berkeley in 1976 where he is currently the G.N. Lewis Professor of Chemistry and Dean of the College of Chemistry. Mathies is author of over 400 publications and 30 patents on photochemistry, photobiology, bioanalytical chemistry and genome analysis technology.
Mathies' biophysical research is focused on the use of resonance Raman and time resolved optical spectroscopy to elucidate the structure and reaction dynamics of energy and information transducing molecules and proteins.  His extensive work on the photochemistry of the visual pigment rhodopsin has established the structure of the primary photoproduct using time-resolved vibrational spectroscopy, demonstrated that the primary cis-to-trans photoisomerization in vision is complete in only 200 fs, and revealed the excited state photoisomerization dynamics for the first time.   His recent development of femtosecond stimulated Raman spectroscopy provides a revolutionary new way to structurally study photochemical and photophysical reaction dynamics with complete high resolution Raman vibrational spectra and femtosecond (10-15 s) time resolution.
Mathies' work in the area of biotechnology and the Human Genome Project led to the development of new high-speed, high-throughput DNA analysis technologies such as capillary array electrophoresis and energy transfer (ET) fluorescent dye labels that were used in the first sequencing of the Human Genome.  He also pioneered the development of microfabricated capillary electrophoresis devices and microfabricated integrated sample preparation and detection methods for lab-on-a-chip analysis that are being applied to DNA sequencing, diagnostics, forensics, pathogen detection and space exploration.


14:30-16:30 17 NOVEMBER

The Greening of Chemistry

Society is highly dependent on the production of chemical materials and products to support all aspects of modern life.  As the world population grows and as developing countries advance their standard of living, the challenge of providing these products in a manner that can be sustained by the ecosystem will become immense.  The production of these chemical products, their use, and their disposal or recycling are intrinsically problems of chemistry.
Given these inescapable facts, the profession of chemistry must now take a more proactive role and responsibility in the development of sustainable chemical materials, products and practices.  Since the problems are fundamentally chemical in nature, chemists must come up with the solutions!
At Berkeley we have accepted this responsibility to lead the way for the profession technically and as a role model.  The actions we are taking include (1) the development of new sustainable chemical technologies to reduce the magnitude and the impact of society’s chemical and energy activities, (2) the development of a new multidisciplinary effort, The Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry ( to organize and enhance sustainability activities on our campus and to reach out nationally and internationally for coordination and best practices transfer, and (3) the reconfiguration of the delivery and content of our educational curriculum and activities at all levels to emphasize sustainable green chemical practice, concepts and awareness so that all members of our profession advance the sustainability of our society through their work and decisions.
New sustainable chemical technologies being developed at Berkeley include: advancing synthetic biology via the Synthetic Biology Institute and the DOE Joint BioEnergy Institute to develop renewable methods for the production of fixed carbon materials for drugs, high value chemical commodities, and biofuels;   Development of new photovoltaic nanotechnologies for more efficient capture and conversion of the sun’s energy;  Development of novel materials for catalytic processes, water splitting, CO2 fixation, and hydrogen storage that enhance the efficiency of key chemical processes.
Our vision for sustainable chemical sciences instruction includes: Green chemistry instruction in our undergraduate lab courses; making sustainability and green chemistry a key part of graduate training; offering executive education programs in sustainable chemical practice to retrain the installed base of chemists and chemical engineers.
Berkeley has a strong tradition of leadership in the development of new chemical science and technology and in the evolution of society.  By executing the proposals described here we will help the world move to a more sustainable chemical economy.