Letter from the Dean

In his final back-to-school briefing, departing Chancellor Robert Birgeneau made the persuasive case that despite massive cuts in state funding, the twin pillars of his eight-year tenure — access and excellence — are thriving. Faculty recruitment and retention are strong, access for California and lower-income students is up, and graduate and undergraduate applications are at an all-time high. I share his particular pride in the 2012 Academic Ranking of World Universities, which placed Berkeley fourth in the world overall.

The College story is similar, including the ride on the fiscal rollercoaster. We have maintained our teaching excellence and delivered research on scientific issues of enormous societal relevance. This issue’s cover story is a great example: the merits of renewable energy are widely accepted, but policy implementation — hooking it all up to a grid designed in another era — is a work in progress. Read about challenges and solutions being developed by faculty and alumni from the Energy and Resources Group, the College’s newest affiliate.

In a related story, Breakthroughs peeks inside the new home of the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) to shed light on the work of some of the EBI’s many contributing CNR faculty as it stands at the threshold of its second five-year grant term. People love hearing about big, bold breakthroughs, but it turns out that in the field of biofuels, innovation is paced in small increments.

The media devoted considerable coverage this summer to the occupation of the Gill Tract in Albany. For insight into the valuable science we do there, read about plant and microbial biology researcher Damon Lisch’s corn research, supported by the National Science Foundation.

Finally, we know you know that the Campaign for Berkeley is about more than just numbers. But totals on the funds you helped us raise — for graduate students, undergraduate research projects, interdisciplinary research centers, and endowed chairs for distinguished faculty — tell a tale of generosity and success that we celebrate in a campaign update in this issue.

I welcome your comments at gilless at berkeley dot edu.

J. Keith Gilless