Message From The Chair

Chairman's Introduction, Viresh Rawal

When the University of Chicago was founded in 1891, one of the first departments to be established was the Department of Chemistry. From the beginning, the Department has embodied the University's central mission of excellence in both research and teaching. Fifteen Nobel laureates in Chemistry have been associated with the University of Chicago.

Our current faculty numbers 30, with considerable strength in the core areas of inorganic, organic, and physical chemistry as well as in interdisciplinary research areas at the boundaries with biology, physics, and materials science. Four faculty members hold joint appointments with other departments and many are members of one or more interdisciplinary research institutes, centers, and committees (for example, the Institute for Biophysical Dynamics the James Franck Institute, and the NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Center).


The Department was ranked 10th nationally in the most recent NRC survey. Approximately 150-175 graduate students and 50 postdoctoral research associates are in residence at any one time, and 20 or more graduate students receive Ph.D. degrees each year. The undergraduate program is also extremely strong. Almost 35% of all students in the College take at least one year of chemistry and 30-45 bachelor's degrees in Chemistry are awarded each year. A large number of undergraduates participate in research projects with the faculty. Very strong interdisciplinary programs are available for interested students. A particularly popular but demanding program involves chemistry and molecular biology. Similar interdisciplinary opportunities exist in the graduate programs, for example, between Chemistry and the Medical School.


The faculty research laboratories of the department are housed in the Gordon Center for Integrative Science and the George Herbert Jones Laboratory. The Gordon Center is a $200M, 400,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facility that opened in 2006. In addition to housing many Chemistry research groups it is also home to the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, a portion of the Department of Physics, the James Franck Institute, the Institute for Biophysical Dynamics, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the Ben May Cancer Institute. The co-location of this diverse set of researchers in a single integrated facility greatly enhances collaborative interdisciplinary research. In addition to the Gordon Center and Jones Laboratory, in 2009 the Department will reoccupy the Searle Chemical Laboratory; this 90,000 square foot building, constructed in 1968, is presently undergoing a comprehensive $35M renovation that will result in world-class laboratory space for synthetic chemistry and nanoscience research.  Finally, the Kent Chemical Laboratory, which was built in 1895, houses excellent undergraduate teaching laboratories and classrooms; it was completely renovated in 1985.


The Department operates superb shared-instrumentation facilities that support its research and teaching missions. The NMR Facility houses three new 500 MHz and one 400 MHz NMR spectrometers for solution samples and a wide-bore 300 MHz instrument with CP-MAS capability for solid samples. The X-ray Diffraction Laboratory operates state-of-the-art single-crystal and powder diffractometers with CCD detection. The Mass Spectrometry Center features MALDI, electrospray, LC-MS and GS-MS instruments for a wide range of molecular, cluster, polymer, and biological samples. The Computation Laboratory operates two large computer clusters that host a variety of quantum computation and dynamics simulation software packages. All four facilities are staffed by Ph.D.-level experts. Numerous other analytical instruments are available in the department. A central machine shop for the fabrication of complex research instrumentation and a sophisticated laboratory for the study of samples in materials research are located conveniently in the Gordon Center.


Close student-faculty interactions have been a hallmark of our Department for over a century. These have fostered a unique intellectual environment that both ensures superb graduate education and continues to produce important and exciting scientific discoveries.


Viresh Rawal, Chairman