George Olah came to USC in 1977 as professor of chemistry and scientific director of the newly formed Hydrocarbon Research Institute. George considered USC a “dynamic university” that was looking for strong faculty to build up the sciences.
He also knew that the larger Trojan Family was committed to ensuring that USC became a world leader in scientific research. In particular, Donald and Katherine Loker became great friends and supporters of George’s work, eventually lending their names to an endowed professorship and to the institute itself.
In 1994, George won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
It was a historic milestone for USC’s ascendency into the ranks of top-tier global research universities. And it is one of many examples of how, working together, we have created a College where faculty and students explore the frontiers of science.
In 1989, Harold and Ester Dornsife were the lead donors for the Hedco Neurosciences Building after having previously supported the construction of one of USC College’s vital science facilities, the Seeley G. Mudd building. Continuing his parents’ dedication to the advancement of science education, USC Trustee David Dornsife and his wife, Dana, established two endowed chairs in the College, of which pre-eminent brain scientists Antonio and Hanna Damasio became the inaugural holders in 2005. They also have provided the lead gift to establish the Dana and David Dornsife Cognitive Neuroscience Imaging Center in the College.
In this issue, you will learn about how, with their support, we are beginning work on a new building for the Brain and Creativity Institute (BCI). A gift from Joyce Cammilleri, another member of our vast Trojan Family, will support BCI’s new auditorium, which will establish a state-of the-art space for science meetings, musical performances and the visual arts.
Building on the success of the Philip K. Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island, in 1997 the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies was established thanks to a gift from Bill and Julie Wrigley. The late George Boone and his wife, MaryLou, dreamed of creating a Center for Science and Environmental Leadership on Catalina, and with the additional support of many others who shared this dream we proudly opened the Boone Center in March 2008.
This support made the College a leader in environmental science and policy, and these strengths allowed us in 2006 to hire a cluster of world-class faculty to join our outstanding group in marine biology.
Among our new hires was a highly talented young scientist with expertise in deep ocean and subseafloor geomicrobiology, Katrina Edwards. In this issue, you will learn that because of her leadership, the National Science Foundation has awarded $25 million to create a Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations headquartered in the College.
Generous supporters of the sciences and the College helped build Ray R. Irani Hall in 2007, a beautiful, 118,000-square-foot, cutting-edge facility that houses many of the greatest scientists of our time in the field of molecular and computational biology. During the Irani Hall dedication ceremony USC President Steven B. Sample said, “Thanks to people such as Ray Irani, USC will remain a key player in this golden age of the life and biological sciences.”
Living up to President Sample’s statement, the College has dramatically increased external funding for our research mission. In the last five years alone, we have increased funding by 50 percent to $71 million.
Because of our collective efforts the College can now brag that among our faculty are 13 American Academy of Arts & Sciences fellows, nine National Academy of Sciences members, 27 American Association for the Advancement of Science fellows, four National Academy of Engineering members and (of course!) one Nobel Prize recipient.
This brings me back to George Olah. When we first met, I was prepared to discuss his latest book, Beyond Oil and Gas: The Methanol Economy (Wiley, 2006), which I very much enjoyed. To my surprise, we spoke mainly of history, literature and politics. To me, George embodies the Renaissance ideal that has been the cornerstone of President Sample’s commitment to breadth with depth and to interdisciplinary scholarship.
I hope you enjoy learning about the amazing science research taking place today in the College. Science is an integral component of the broader mission of USC College, which values inquiry and discovery across all disciplines and celebrates the rigor and creativity of an engaged and educated mind — the most powerful force in all of nature.
Dean of USC College
Anna H. Bing Dean’s Chair