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Letter from the Chair

David MacmillanI am pleased to report that the Department of Chemistry is currently enjoying a period of unprecedented expansion. In early 2011, the entire department completed its relocation to the new, state-of-the-art Frick Chemistry Laboratory. Featuring a majestic, sky-lit atrium with a ground floor café, which serves as a central meeting spot for faculty and students alike, the Frick building was designed with a view toward fostering interdepartmental communication and the informal exchange of scientific ideas. Our move into the new laboratory has indeed proven to be a great boon to departmental morale.

As chair, my long-term vision is to establish Princeton Chemistry as the top department in the country. We will achieve this goal by hiring world-class senior faculty and by identifying and nurturing the next generation of leaders in the field. As a result of the unparalleled level of commitment demonstrated by the University administration, we are now in the midst of an incredibly active and successful era of faculty recruitment.

In the past several years, three leading researchers have joined the Princeton faculty: Tom Muir in chemical biology, Paul Chirik in organometallic chemistry, and Garnet Chan in theoretical chemistry. Aside from being excellent colleagues, Muir, Chirik, and Chan represent premier researchers in their respective fields, and bring an enormous breadth of scientific expertise to the department. I am particularly grateful to Marty Semmelhack, associate chair of the department, for his tireless and skillful efforts in faculty recruitment.

This cohort of prominent senior hires is complemented by a stellar group of junior faculty: Abigail Doyle (whose promotion to associate professor was just approved by the Board of Trustees for July 1), Robert Knowles, Dorothea Fiedler, and most recently, Mo Seyedsayamdost. These future leaders of the field are pursuing exciting research programs across a range of disciplines, from organic synthesis to chemical biology.

Along with faculty recruitment, making connections with chemistry alumni/ae is key to the department’s growth and vitality, and I extend my thanks to all of our alumni who have supported our vision of the future of Princeton Chemistry. In particular, I would like to convey my gratitude to John Diekman ’65, who has not only been a decades-long cheerleader for chemistry, but also did a superb job in communicating to the administration the critical need for a 21st century laboratory, paving the way for the construction of our fantastic new facility. Going forward, we would like to forge more productive links between chemistry alumni and the department, and will be focusing on opportunities to make that happen.

Finally, I would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge our phenomenal departmental support staff, whose dedication and skill are crucial to the ongoing success of our research, teaching, and recruitment efforts. In particular, the department has been extremely fortunate to hire Janet Gruschow as academic department manager. Previously the assistant to President Tilghman, Janet came to chemistry in 2010 and has proven to be an invaluable asset to the department.

During the past several years, the Princeton Department of Chemistry has witnessed an era of remarkable growth. Following our move to the new Frick Laboratory, and in the wake of several high–profile faculty hires, a feeling of optimism and excitement is pervasive in the department. However, there is still much work to be done. Over the next several years, we expect to make a number of additional strategic hires, at both the junior and senior level, and to continue to raise the stature of the department.

David W. MacMillan
Chair, Department of Chemistry
James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry