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Laurels
Blue ribbons, gold stars, honorable mentions.

29 August 2007

Two Berkeley scientists have been recognized by Technology Review magazine as among the world's top innovators under age 35: chemical engineer Rachel Segalman for developing a novel way to generate electricity from heat, and J. Christopher Anderson for designing tumor-killing bacteria. Segalman is the Charles Wilke Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering, while Anderson is a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of professor Adam Arkin and in the campus's Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center, or SynBERC. Innovation, however, is not the exclusive province of youth: R&D Magazine has declared longtime chemistry professor Alex Pines one of its top 100 innovators of the year for a development in the area of magnetic resonance imaging that could eliminate the need for powerful magnets. Pines, a faculty scientist at LBNL, is a leading expert on MRI and the basic technique underlying it, nuclear magnetic resonance.

The campus itself won kudos last month for its technological innovations in disaster planning, receiving a Larry L. Sautter Award from the UC Information Technology Leadership Council. One of the five prizes for 2007 went to Restarting Berkeley - since renamed the Berkeley Continuity Planning Tool - an online program that enables schools, academic departments, research units, administrative-support units, and other campus entities to develop detailed plans for coping with a disaster, from earthquakes to fires and pandemics. (Check out the website at bcptdemo.berkeley.edu.)

The American Chemical Society has awarded its highest honor, the Priestley Medal, to chemistry professor Gabor Somorjai for his "extraordinarily creative and original contributions to surface science and catalysis." Somorjai, a Hungarian émigré who joined the Berkeley faculty in 1962, also serves as a faculty senior scientist and group leader at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.

And another prominent Berkeley chemist, William Miller, Kenneth S. Pitzer Distinguished Professor, will share the annual Welch Award in Chemistry in recognition of his lifetime achievements in theoretical chemistry. Miller, who joined the chemistry department in 1969 and served as department chair from 1989 until 1993, is an expert in molecular-collision theory and chemical-reaction dynamics. The award, from the Welch Foundation, comes with a $300,000 prize.

As part of "EMS Week 2007," UCPD officers Tom Syto, Ryan Murray, Hatcher Parnell, and Sean Tinney and Sgt. David Eubanks were recognized by Alameda County Public Health Department/Emergency Medical Services for the campus's Automated Emergency Defibrillator (AED) program and the department's successful deployments. Assistant Chief Mitch Celaya also accepted an EMS "Siren" award on behalf of the department at a ceremony in May. Former Berkeley Chancellor Albert Bowker, who was rescued with the aid of a portable defibrillator on campus in December 2006, was on hand for the proceedings.

For its 2007 fellowship program, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation has identified 18 "outstanding postdoctoral scientists" working on cancer research in the labs of leading senior investigators nationwide, and three of them are here at Berkeley. Michael Gordon, with his sponsor Kristin Scott, is defining the neural circuits that control feeding, and providing fundamental knowledge to frame the growing health crisis of obesity. Sarah Siegrist, with sponsor Iswar Hariharan, is uncovering novel genes that control cell growth and neurogenesis in the adult brain - key processes for understanding the origins of brain cancers. And Karsten Siller, with sponsor Lu Chen, is using simple genetic systems to investigate how molecules that are mis-regulated in cancer act to control neuron-to-neuron signaling.

The fellowship program, according to the 61-year-old foundation, is intended "to encourage the nation's most promising young investigators to pursue careers in cancer research by providing them with independent funding to work on innovative projects."

Finally: Thomas Dandelet, an associate professor in the history department, was recently awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for the academic year 2007-08. He plans to use the fellowship to research and write a new book on the Colonna family, a leading Roman noble family in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Please forward notice of Laurel-worthy items to bbergman­@berkeley.edu; we'll publish as many in each weekly issue as space permits.