Bruce Armitage
Bruce Armitage

Letter from the Department of Chemistry Head, Bruce Armitage

Greetings Chemistry Alumni! I hope 2023 has been a good year for you. It has certainly been a whirlwind here on the Pittsburgh campus. Design and planning are ongoing for the new R. K. Mellon Hall of Sciences building, which will become the home for several of our research groups when it opens in 3-4 years. Meanwhile, the CMU Cloud Lab is under construction and is slated to open in late summer/ early fall of this year. A first-of-its-kind automated lab for academic research and teaching, the Cloud Lab will be a transformative facility for our department.

In the following pages, you will find articles highlighting the well-deserved awards and high-impact publications of our faculty and students. The research feature on Prof. Oles Isayev illustrates the growing importance of artificial intelligence as both a tool and a subject for chemistry research and teaching. The remarkable achievements that Oles has realized juxtaposed with the ongoing war in his homeland of Ukraine is particularly poignant. You can also read about innovative new courses that highlight the central role of chemistry in our daily lives. In addition to enriching our chemistry majors, these courses are attracting substantial numbers of non-majors to our classroom, helping to spread the word of the importance of chemistry, but also demonstrating our collective responsibility to make the world a better place through our teaching and research efforts. The issue concludes with a long overdue tribute to the critical role played by graduate students in mentoring undergraduate researchers.

Every year is characterized by welcomes and farewells. This year, we were fortunate to add Prof. Carrie McDonough and her environmental chemistry expertise to our faculty, while we said goodbye to long-time organic chemistry lab guru Prof. Susan Graul, whose retirement leaves very big shoes to fill in our undergrad teaching program. We also lost Prof. Marcel Bruchez earlier this year. Marcel’s life and career were warmly recounted at a celebration of life event last fall featuring talks by his family, friends and colleagues.

Finally, many thanks to those who have made generous donations to the department. While you are always welcome to direct your gift to the department’s general fund, I am pleased to announce two new giving opportunities. The first recognizes Marcel Bruchez’s commitment to building our department’s efforts in automation. He was an early adopter of the Cloud Lab (via our partners at Emerald Cloud Lab) and was the prime driver in convincing other faculty and students to get on board. Therefore, we have created the Marcel Bruchez Cloud Lab Inspiration Fund to help CMU researchers defray the costs of using this facility. Our second new fund, the Undergraduate Research Mentoring Fund, is dedicated to the aforementioned graduate student mentors who collectively make undergraduate research such an integral part of the CMU experience. Money raised through this fund will be used to provide support for these graduate students, e.g. paying a portion of their annual stipend or providing travel funds to attend a conference. More information on giving can be found inside the back cover.

Even if you are not in a position to make a gift at this time, we would love to hear from you. It was great seeing many of you at our recent departmental luncheon during Carnival weekend and I hope to see many more either here in Pittsburgh or during my travels around the country in the coming year. Follow us on Twitter (@CMU_Chem) to keep up with the latest news and remember, you will always have a home with us.