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Chemistry Chairs: Dr. Dai, Dr. Hirschmann

Hai-Lung Dai Ralph Hirschmann

SAS Dean Samuel H. Preston has announced two chair appointments in the Department of Chemistry. Dr. Hai-Lung Dai has been appointed to the Hirschmann-Makineni Professorship in Chemistry. Dr. Ralph Hirschmann has been named the Rao Makineni Term Professor in Chemistry.

Dr. Dai received a B.S. from National Taiwan University in 1974 and a doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1981. He joined the chemistry faculty in 1984 after serving as a postdoctoral fellow at MIT and was promoted to full professor in 1992.

Since coming to Penn, he has received the following honors: the Henry and Camille Dreyfus New Faculty Award, an Alfred P. Sloan fellowship, the Henry and Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, the Coblentz Award in Spectroscopy, the Alexander von Humboldt fellowship for senior U.S. scientists, the American Chemical Society's Philadelphia Section Award, a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, a Morino Lectureship in Japan, and a Molecular Dynamics Lectureship at the Chinese Academy of Science. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and serves on the editorial boards of several journals in the fields of physical chemistry and chemical physics.

A physical chemist, he develops new laser-based and time-resolved spectroscopic techniques for studying molecular properties and intermolecular interactions in gases, on surfaces, and in novel materials. His recent studies include effects of high energy excitations on molecules and how reactions can be controlled or improved in efficiency by external means of excitation. He has written more than 120 research articles and book chapters in molecular and surface sciences. In addition to his scholarly activities, he served as the chair of the chemistry department from 1996 to 2002 and currently is a member of the Pennsylvania State Board on Drugs, Devices, and Cosmetics.

The Hirschmann-Makineni Professorship in Chemistry was established by Rao Makineni in 1993 in honor of National Medal of Science recipient Dr. Ralph Hirschmann, who was the first holder of this endowed professorship and who has now been named the Rao Makineni Term Professor in Chemistry.

Before coming to Penn in 1987, Dr. Hirschmann was senior vice president for basic research at Merck & Co., Inc., where he had worked since 1950. He also had a concurrent appointment as professor of biomedical research at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. He received an A.B. from Oberlin College in 1943, served in the US Army during World War II, then received a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1950. He has written more than 160 papers and holds 100 patents. His early work at Merck led to the discovery of stereoselective control of chemical transformations, an important concept in organic chemistry.

At Penn, he initiated collaborative research in the field of peptidomimetics, which has clarified relationships between chemical structure and biological function via collaborations with biologists in the pharmaceutical industry.

In addition to the National Medal of Science, his honors include the National Academy of Sciences' Award for the Industrial Application of Science, the American Chemical Society's Arthur C. Cope Medal and Edward E. Smissman Bristol-Myers Squibb Award, the Nichols Medal of its New York Section, and the Willard Gibbs Medal of the Chicago Section, as well as the ACS Alfred Burger and E.B. Hershberg Awards. He was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences and he is a Senior Fellow of the Institute of Medicine. The Medical University of South Carolina established the Ralph F. Hirschmann Professorship of Biochemistry in his honor in 1997, and both Oberlin and Wisconsin have endowed lectureships in his honor.

Rao Makineni was born in Andhra, India. He received his undergraduate training at the Christian College in 1952. Four years later he was awarded the degree of Associate of the Royal College of Science and Technology at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland. In 1959 he moved to Los Angeles, where he worked first for Shankman Laboratories and later for the Pasadena Foundation for Medical Research. In 1963, he joined the Cyclo Chemical Company, his first major commitment to peptide chemistry. His entrepreneurial talent became apparent in 1967 when he became cofounder of the Fox Chemical Company. In 1971, Mr. Makineni and Peter Grogg started Bachem with laboratories in Switzerland and California. The two organizations subsequently separated, both becoming highly successful enterprises. He retired in 1996 to continue his philanthropic activities and to travel with his wife, Padma.

He has been a generous friend of the chemistry department, having provided funds for renovating space for the Makineni Laboratory for Theoretical Chemistry and the Makineni Conference Room in the Department of Chemistry.

  Almanac, Vol. 49, No. 33, May 13, 2003