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Chemistry department gets grants for facilities

A nanosecond- to sub-picosecond time-resolved laser facility will be renovated and equipped as part of the MIT Chemistry 2000 campaign with the support of a $500,000 grant from DuPont. The department has also received two other $500,000 pledges from Pfizer Inc and the Pfizer Foundation for attracting faculty and renovations of chemistry laboratory space targeted in the campaign.

"We are delighted we are able to participate in the upgrading of the chemistry laser facility," said Dr. Claibourne D. Smith, vice president for technology and professional development and vice chairman of the corporate Committee on Educational Aid for DuPont. "We look forward to continuing our long-standing and valued relationship over many more decades.

"MIT has been a pioneer in lasers," said Professor Stephen J. Lippard, chemistry department head. "We are assembling an unparalleled group of chemists to remain at the leading edge in laser-based chemistry research. DuPont's investment in this research facility will enhance our efforts in optoelectronic polymer materials, biocatalysis, small molecule activation, environmental and processing chemosensors, and laser diagnostics of multicomponent fluid flow."

Professors Moungi Bawendi, Daniel Nocera and Timothy Swager will have primary responsibility for the function of this shared laser facility, which will be a centerpiece for new interdisciplinary research ventures. One-third of the department's faculty will be involved in projects. Facility construction is expected to begin this fall.

The facility will provide a training ground for the next century's cohort of scientific professionals who will apply lasers in unique ways to solve important problems. MIT anticipates that there will be study opportunities for undergraduate students through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP).

In separate grants in honor of Professor George B������chi, Pfizer Inc (Central Research Division) and the Pfizer Foundation will support attraction of new synthetic chemistry faculty and the renovation of approximately 15,000 of the 90,000 sq. ft. of chemistry laboratory space targeted in the MIT Chemistry 2000 campaign.

"Synthetic chemistry lies at the heart of innovation in biomedical research because of its unique ability to transform more fundamental discovery into the molecules that actively probe specific biological hypotheses," said George M. Milne, Jr., (PhD '69 in chemistry), president of Pfizer's Central Research Division. "Professor B������chi, through the breadth, scope and elegance of his contributions, provides an important exemplar of the opportunity accessible to the prepared and adventuresome mind."

Under the supervision of Professor B������chi, Dr. Milne worked on the biosynthesis of aflatoxins. Professor B������chi's efforts (in collaboration with Professor Gerald Wogan) in the biosynthesis metabolism, structure, synthesis, and activity of the aflatoxins -- toxic mold metabolites in contaminated food -- is a milestone in toxicology and a major contributor to public health.

A formal opening ceremony is planned when renovations are completed next year.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on August 27, 1997.

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