Annual Seminars

Chemistry & Biochemistry Annual Seminars

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry has a vibrant and diverse named seminar series.


B. R. Baker Lecture

Professor B.R. Baker was a Professor of Chemistry at UCSB from 1966 until his death in 1971. Baker's graduate work on the structural elucidation and synthesis of Cannabis constituents marked the beginning of a prolific career in the chemistry of natural products. He undertook many diverse projects of medicinal interest including the synthesis of antihemorrhagic vitamin K analogues, biotin derivatives, compounds with hormone activity, sulfones with activity against tuberculosis, and alkaloids. He published two books and more than 370 papers that included a series of papers on the structure and synthesis of the antimalarial alkaloid from Hydrangea that filled an entire issue of the Journal of Organic Chemistry in 1952. He determined the structure of the first known nucleoside antibiotic, puromycin, and synthesized it in 1955. This achievement came long before the discovery of the structure of transfer ribonucleic acid (tRNA). Puromycin was later shown to mimic the structure of tRNA and became and an important tool of research in molecular biology. Puromycin was too toxic for cancer chemotherapy, but it aroused Bill's interest in this field. Few of the myriad of compounds that he had so meticulously synthesized showed any antitumor activity in vivo, so he sought a more rational approach to cancer chemotherapy. Perhaps his greatest contribution to medicinal chemistry was the concept of active-site-directed irreversible enzyme inhibition of substrate-identical enzymes. A monograph summarizing this approach to drug design promptly became one of the classic works in the field.

Bill's two great interests in life were his family and chemistry. He married Reba Brodsky in 1937 when he was a graduate student, and they were inseparable until the end. Their temperaments were strikingly similar; they were always cheerful, unpretentious, optimistic, and sanguine of outlook. Together with their three daughters, the Bakers were a tightly knit group whose pleasure in family life was communicated to their many friends.

Since founding the B.R. Baker Memorial Lecture and Student Fellowship in 1975, the memory of B.R. Baker has been actively kept alive by his devoted wife, Reba Baker.  On the evening of February 23, 2013, Reba Baker passed quietly in her sleep at age 95. Mother of Shari, Bonnie and Reenie, grandmother of Jeanne and Debbie, great grandmother of Win and Holt, and surrogate mother to thousands of foreign students whom she taught at UCSB from 1975 until her recent illness, her most precious connection was as wife and partner to her husband, Professor B.R. Baker.
The B.R. Baker Memorial Fellowship in Chemistry is awarded to a graduate student on the verge of graduation who has given strong indication that they will make continued and substantial contributions to the progress of organic, medicinal, or biological chemistry. Fellowship candidates are nominated by department faculty members and recipients are selected by a Department Faculty Awards Committee. Each fellow is honored at the annual B. R. Baker Memorial Lecture, and recipients receive a cash award of $500.
Past lecturers:
2023 David MacMillan Princeton University        
2022 Eric Jacobsen Harvard University        
2021 Nicholas Hud Georgia State        
2020 cancelled due to COVID-19          
2019 Gerald F. Joyce Salk Institute, La Jolla CA   1996 David S. Sigman UCLA
2018 Peter S. Kim Stanford University   1995 Chi-Huey Wong Scripps Institute
2017 Richmond Sarpong UC Berkeley   1994 Richard Holm Harvard Univeristy
2016 Justin Du Bois Stanford University
Olke C. Uhlenbeck
Colorado Univeristy
2015 Jack W. Szostak Harvard University
Peter B. Dervan
California Insitute of Technology
2014 Stephen C. Kowalczykowski UC Davis
Peter G. Schultz
UC Berkeley
2013 Dennis C. Liotta Emory Univeristy
Sir James W. Black
Kings College
2012 Steven Fesik Vanderbilt Univeristy
E.J. Corey
Harvard Univeristy
2011 Michael Marletta Scripps Institute
Richard Lerner
Scripps Foundation
2010 Paul Wender Stanford Univeristy
Harry B. Gray
California Insitute of Technology
2009 Christopher Lipinski Pfizer
Alan R. Fersht
Imperial College
2008 Robert Stroud UC San Francisco
Stephen Benkovic
Penn State Univeristy
2007 Vern Schramm Yeshiva Univeristy
Christopher Walsh
Harvard Medical School
2006 Paul J. Reider Amgen
2005 Ronald Breslow Columbia Univeristy
Daniel Santi
UC San Francisco
2004 T.C. Bruice UC Santa Barbara
Carl Djerassi
Stanford Univeristy
2003 Jack Dixon UC San Diego
Linus Pauling
2002 Gregory Petsko Brandeis Univeristy
Bruce N. Ames
UC Berkeley
2001 Steven Benner Florida Univeristy
Jeremy Knowles
Harvard Univeristy.
2000 Joanne Stubbe MIT
1999 Richard E. Dickerson UCLA
Nelson Leonard
Illinois Univeristy
1998 Harold A. Sheraga Cornell Univeristy.
Joseph Bertino
Yale Univeristy
1997 Daniel E. Koshland UC Berkeley
Paul Berg
Stanford Univeristy

W. E. Palke Memorial Lecture

William E. Palke, professor in the UCSB Chemistry Department for 31 years, died on May 10, 1999 from a heart attack. He was 58 years old. To many, he was more than a professor. He was a scientist, colleague, hiking companion, rock climber, and friend.
Professor Palke did his graduate work with W.N. Lipscomb at Harvard, receiving his Ph.D. in 1966. There followed two years of postdoctoral work as an A.A. Noyes Fellow at Caltech where he worked in collaboration with Professor William Goddard. Then in 1968, he came to UCSB as an assistant professor in theoretical chemistry.
His first scientific publication came in 1962 from undergraduate work done with Professor Fred Anson at Caltech. Some 37 years and 84 papers later, his most recent paper appeared in the Journal of Magnetic Resonance.
Professor Palke was a great collaborator. In our department he was a major resource for many graduate students and co-authored papers with 10 different faculty members.
By and large, the work of Professor Palke fell in five areas. He developed efficient computational methods for determining wave functions used in evaluating properties of molecules. He sought to understand the quantum details of chemical bonding. He analyzed the different factors that give rise to the barriers to internal rotation in molecules. He applied density functional theory to relate the electron density in molecules to molecular properties.
In recent years, he extended the theory of relaxation effects in nuclear magnetic resonance experiments. This work resulted in a set of computer programs that, for the first time, permitted calculation of the spectra exhibited by complicated spin systems interacting in general ways.
Down through the years Professor Palke taught a variety of courses including General Chemistry, Environmental Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, Statistical Mechanics and Quantum Chemistry. He was widely regarded as one of the best teachers in the department. He is sorely missed.
Past lecturers:
2016 Peter Nordlander Rice University
2015 Pablo Debenedetti Princeton University
2015 Alexis T. Bell University of California, Berkeley
2014 Wilson Ho University of California, Irvine
University of Georgia
University of Texas at Austin
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Northwestern University
University of California, San Diego
Gregory Voth
University of Utah
Bruce J. Berne
Columbia University
David Chandler
UC Berkeley
Eric J. Heller
Harvard Univ.
Peter Woylnes
UC San Diego
Dennis Salahub
Univ. of Calgary
W. A. Goddard


Lecture in Science Education

The SciTrek lectures seek to highlight innovations in science education which promote a better understanding of and appreciation for how science works. These lectures are dedicated to bring together people and programs at UCSB focused on science education with community participants, including teachers and administrators to promote discussion on best practices in science education at all levels.
Past lecturers:
2022 Penny Noyce Noyce Foundation/Tumblehome Learning
2021 Robert Brewer
Florin High School/Sacramento State University  
2020 cancelled due to COVID-19  
2019 Mark Windschitl University of Washington
2018 Marcia Linn UC Berkeley
2017 Bassam Shakhashiri University of Wisconsin-Madison
2016 Paul Relis Community Environmental Council
2015 Susan Singer National Science Foundation
2014 Brian J. Reiser Northwestern University
Universtiy of Wisconsin
University of California, San Francisco

Chemical Sciences Student Seminar (CSSS or CS3) Series

The CSSS is a forum for graduate students in the DCB, created and managed by graduate students, to share their work and research with each other as well as any and all members of the campus community.  One quarter per year, approximately 16, 20-minute general audience talks (2 per week, during the noon hour) are presented by advanced (3rd-5th year) graduate students.  During the spring, the Department presents the Best Scientific Presentation Award to the speaker who best communicated their scientific research, as determined by a vote of other graduate students and audience members.  The award recipient will also be asked to give an encore presentation in the presence of alumni, faculty, and other invited guests.  All DCB graduate students are invited and encouraged to participate in the planning and organization of the CSSS.  Opportunities for involvement include seminar and room scheduling, fundraising and networking, recruitment of qualified speakers, event-day set-up event-day master of ceremony (MC) responsibilities, and other responsibilities as dictated by the future development of the program.  Contact the CSSS Executive Committee for more information or to get involved.

Winter 2012 CSSS Speakers:

Peter Burks Ford  Inorganic Chemistry
Frank Leibfarth Hawker  Organic/Materials Chemistry
Marshall Ligare de Vries  Physical Chemistry
Charles Frazier Read de Alaniz  Organic Chemistry
Camille Lawrence Plaxco  Biochemistry
Lauren Misch Stucky  Materials Chemistry
Richard Lewis Hayton  Inorganic Chemistry
Thomas Kaufmann Han  Physical Chemistry
Randi Gbur Little  Organic Chemistry
Agustin Pierri Ford  Inorganic Chemistry
Christian Bleiholder (Post-Doc) Bowers  Physical Chemistry
Gesine Veits Read de Alaniz  Organic Chemistry
Lorgan Garner Bazan  Organic/Materials Chemistry
Jasin Lin Nguyen  Materials Chemistry
Hannah Zane Butler  Bio-Inorganic Chemistry

Fall 2012 CSSS Speakers:
Zachary Henson Bazan  Organic/Materials Chemistry
Ashley Wright Hayton  Inorganic Chemistry
Sameh Helmy Read de Alaniz  Organic Chemistry
Sunyia Hussain Han  Physical Chemistry
Michael Gaultois Seshadri  Inorganic/Materials Chemistry
Tyler Shropshire Daugherty (MCDB)  Biochemistry
Nick Economou Buratto  Physical Chemistry
Les Burnett Pettus  Organic Chemistry
Bill Mason Special Guest InfiniteZ
Bret Fors California NanoSystems Institute  Organic/Materials Chemistry
Marisa Weaver Pettus  Organic Chemistry
Tom van der Poll Bazan  Organic/Materials Chemistry
Erin Brocker Bowers  Physical Chemistry
Danielle Schultz Gwinn (Physics)  Physics/Physical Chemistry
Luke Miller Stucky  Inorganic/Materials Chemistry