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New chemistry building set to host
top scientists for oxygen symposium
October 5, 1998

"Photosynthesis is, arguably, the most important scientific process on earth."

Harry Frank
Professor of Biological
and Physical Chemistry

The first major symposium to be held in the new chemistry building will convene October 14 when more than 150 scientists gather, fittingly enough, for the annual Randolph T. Major Memorial Lecture Series.

The three-day event features three of the world's foremost authorities on oxygen, discussing with students and their colleagues the many and varied ways that oxygen reacts to biological systems, and its evolution - how plants create oxygen and how mammalian species use the gas once it is expelled into the air.

"Photosynthesis (the process by which plants create oxygen) is, arguably, the most important scientific process on earth," says Harry Frank, a professor of biological and physical chemistry at UConn and coordinator of the conference.

The series, which began in 1966 as the American Cyanamid Lecture Series, has brought 33 of the world's top chemistry scholars to campus, including several Nobel laureates. The title of the series was changed in 1976, when Professor Randolph T. Major died, and officials at Merck and Co., where Major had conducted research for 37 years, endowed the lectureship.

Frank says the department strives to bring not only top researchers for the Major Series, but scientists who are committed to education, who will interact with UConn students during the conference.

This year's keynote speaker, Sunney I. Chan, a professor of biophysical chemistry at the California Institute of Technology, will deliver lectures each of the three days of the conference, and he will also interact with students during an October 14 banquet and during an October 16 brunch with members of Phi Lambda.

Upsilon, the student honorary society for chemistry.

Joining Chan as speakers will be Gary Brudvig, a chemist from Yale University, and Gerald T. Babcock, a professor of chemistry at Michigan State University.

The main lectures will be offered in the new building's lecture halls, high-tech rooms the chemistry department is anxious to showcase.

The new facility also will allow the department to showcase its students and faculty during a poster session that will be held in the building's.

impressive four-story atrium. The old chemistry building has no area large enough to support a poster session or other casual, large gathering.

Chan, Frank says, is an excellent example of the new, interdisciplinary style that chemistry departments - and the new building - are embracing. His work covers a spectrum of disciplines, including biology, physics and environmental chemistry.

The lectures, too, will cover both ends of the spectrum, with discussions touching on the creation of oxygen through photosynthesis, and on respiration - the taking in and use of oxygen.

On October 15, from 10-11 a.m, department personnel will also offer tours of the new building. They are open to the public. Anyone interested in signing up for a tour should go through the department's Web page at


Richard Veilleux