David Blank named Department of Chemistry Head
Professor David Blank has been appointed the new Head of the Department of Chemistry, effective Sept. 1, 2017. The appointment was made by Samuel B. Mukasa, Dean of the College of Science & Engineering. Blank succeeds Professor William Tolman who has served as the department’s chair for the past eight years.
About Professor Blank
Blank earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of California, Los Angeles, and his doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was also a post-doctoral research fellow. He joined the Department of Chemistry in 2000, and was promoted to full professor in 2014. He is a member of the graduate faculty in Chemical Physics. Blank was named a 3M/Alumni Professor in July 2016, and has served as the Department of Chemistry’s Director of Undergraduate Studies since 2010. In addition, Blank is also one of the founders and the director of the Energy and U outreach program.
"It is with humble excitement that I look forward to working with and leading such a remarkable group of faculty, staff, students and postdocs,” said Blank. “Bill did a fantastic job over the last eight years, leaving us well positioned for continued and accelerating success on all fronts."
Record of service
Blank serves on a number of department, college, and university committees such as the executive and advisory committees for a new laboratory teaching building, the University Senate Committee on Student Awards, the term chemistry faculty search committee, the college’s Consultative Committee, Curriculum Committee, and Academic Standards and Student Affairs Committee. He serves as an upper division undergraduate adviser, chairs the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee, and is the department’s Honors faculty representative.
Among Blank’s significant contributions is the creation and development of an impactful outreach initiative—Energy and U. Working with Professors Marc Hillmyer and Frank Bates, and demonstration expert Joe Franek, the Energy and U show was created 11 years ago, in 2006. It started as a single performance for about 100 students and parents. Under Blank’s leadership as Energy and U’s program director, content developer and performer, the show has grown into a full-scale production serving thousands of elementary school children every year. In 2014, he initiated a collaborative partnership with the Department of Theater Arts and Dance that has brought a professional quality to the show. The show is now performed at the Rarig Center for 16 days every year to an audience of more than 13,000 3rd grade through 6th grade students. The show has been performed for more than 60,000 students to date, and its positive reputation has spread rapidly with tens of thousands of students on the wait list.
Leads chemistry undergraduate program
As Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUGS), Blank enhanced the chemistry undergraduate teaching program. During his time as the DUGS, the number of chemistry majors almost doubled, and the program is now one of the largest chemistry degree granting programs in the country. He has improved the student experience through curricular additions, increased access to advanced courses, and comprehensive advising. Blank also led one of the department’s largest curricular development projects, guiding a group of faculty in the Department of Chemistry and College of Biological Sciences in designing an all-new chemistry sequence of lectures and laboratories specifically tailored for students interested in the life sciences, focusing on reactions that take place in living cells.
Research, teaching, service honors
Blank's research group is primarily focused on applying an array of time resolved spectroscopies to better understand energy and charge transfer in a broad array of condensed phase materials associated with light harvesting. He was a recipient of the David and Lucile Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering. He has received some of the University’s most prestigious awards for teaching, including the Horace T. Morse Award for Undergraduate Education, and the Charles E. Bowers Faculty Teaching Award. For his service to community and commitment to outreach, Blank was honored with both the George W. Taylor Award for Distinguished Service by the College of Science and Engineering, and the President’s Award for Outstanding Service by the university.