$3.5 million gift from Dow to develop sustainable chemistry education

February 24, 2012
By: UCB College of Chemistry


Seven men in suits.
Dow Chemical Company and College of Chemistry leaders pose at the University House. (Rear) Tony Kingsbury, Dow Executive-in-Residence, Haas School of Business; Dean Richard A. Mathies; Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau. (Front) Neil Hawkins, Dow VP for Sustainability; CBE Chair Doug Clark; David Kepler, Dow Executive VP for Business Services, Chief Sustainability Officer; Robert Miller, President and Executive Director, Dow Chemical Company Foundation.


The College of Chemistry will rebuild the college’s aging undergraduate teaching labs and design a new curriculum based on the principles of sustainability and green chemistry, with the support of a $3.5 million gift from The Dow Chemical Company Foundation.

“I am very grateful for the support we have received from Dow,” says College of Chemistry Dean Richard A. Mathies. “This very generous gift from the Dow Foundation will transform chemical sciences instruction for the 21st Century. These funds will enable us to completely renew our undergraduate instructional laboratories and our curriculum with a sharp focus on sustainable green chemical practices. The impact of this gift is huge because these courses serve thousands of students every year.”


“We are delighted to partner with Berkeley and the College of Chemistry,” said Andrew Liveris, Dow Chairman and CEO. “Together we will facilitate enhancements to both the curriculum and the learning environment that will encourage the next generation of students to adopt the principles of sustainable chemistry from their first day in the lab and the classroom.”

Multiple guests talk at outside.
Guests from Dow and UC Berkeley enjoy a warm early spring day at the University House.

David Kepler, Executive Vice President for Business Services and Chief Sustainability Officer at Dow, helped coordinate the gift. Says Kepler, a 1975 chemical engineering alumnus, “As a leading global chemistry company committed to sustainability, Dow sees the need to educate the next generation of scientists and engineers beyond traditional chemistry into the discipline of sustainable chemistry.”

Both the College of Chemistry and Dow are committed to teaching chemists to create chemicals and processes that reduce or eliminate the use of hazardous substances and minimize their environmental impacts. These sustainable practices are designed to apply to the complete life cycle of chemical products, including their design, manufacture, use and disposal.

To implement this new vision, funds from the Dow gift will transform the curriculum in following three ways:

  • The teaching labs will be renovated to reduce the impact of their use through sustainable practices. Lab equipment, hoods and lighting will be replaced to bring it up to the latest efficiency standards.
  • The lab curriculum will be completely revised to incorporate sustainability into every experiment. The curriculum will be based on independent teaching modules that will engage the students by having them choose their experimental topics.
  • A chemical analysis instrumentation facility will be built to give the thousands of students in the introductory courses the opportunity to work with modern instrumentation.
Two men with hammers and helmets.
Berkeley CBE alum David Kepler, Dow’s Executive VP for Business Services and Chief Sustainability Officer, assists Dean Richard A. Mathies in removing a wall in preparation for the rebuilding of the college teaching labs.

Each year more than 2,300 Berkeley undergraduates in chemistry, physical sciences, biological sciences, engineering and other majors take introductory chemistry classes. “Our undergrad and grad students will go on to pursue careers in many fields,” says Dean Mathies. “The impact of our new sustainability curriculum will be amplified as our students take jobs in academia and begin to teach their own courses. Meanwhile our students in government and industry will spread sustainable practices as their careers develop.”

Adds Kepler, “We are excited to partner with the College of Chemistry to bring enhancements to both the curriculum and the learning environment that will encourage students to adopt the principles of sustainable chemistry from their first day in the lab and the classroom.”