Welcoming Professor Abigail Doyle to UCLA as our newest Winstein Chair

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At a small reception on September 24, 2021, we welcomed Professor Abigail Doyle to UCLA and celebrated her appointment as the 4th holder of the Winstein Chair.

Doyle joined the UCLA faculty in July 2021 as the Saul Winstein Chair in Organic Chemistry. Prior to that she was a faculty member in the Department of Chemistry at Princeton University. We also welcome to UCLA Doyle’s nine lab members who have joined her from Princeton. Doyle’s office and laboratory are located in the Molecular Sciences Building.

Group photos

(Left) Professors Miguel García-Garibay (Dean of UCLA Physical Sciences), Ken Houk, Abigail Doyle, Carole Winstein (daughter of Professor Saul Winstein for whom the Chair is named and Professor of Neurology at USC) and Neil Garg (Department Chair). (Right) At the event, Doyle was presented with Professor Saul Winstein’s original 1949 communication proposing the structure of the norbornyl cation along with an image of the (nearly identical) X-ray structure obtained in 2013.  

“Educated at Harvard, Abby spent 13 spectacular years at Princeton, going from Assistant Professor to the A. Barton Hepburn Chair in Chemistry and building an international reputation,” said the 3rd holder of the Winstein Chair Professor Ken Houk  in his remarks. “She has excelled at developing synthetic methods, especially involving organometallic chemistry and photocatalysis. Abby develops methods but develops mechanistic understanding through physical organic studies as well. She is the leading organic chemist harnessing mechanistic understanding and machine learning artificial intelligence to improve synthetic procedures and to develop new ones.”  

In concluding his remarks, Houk said to Doyle, “You are already enhancing the reputation of excellence at UCLA. We look forward to your carrying on, and building further, the tradition of physical organic chemistry here.”

Dean of Physical Sciences Miguel García-Garibay and Department Chair Professor Neil Garg also made remarks, after which Doyle was presented with a crystal plaque engraved with her name and embossed with the structure of the norbornyl cation, symbolic of Saul Winstein, and a framed high point of chemical history, Winstein’s original communication proposing the structure of the norbornyl cation.  

The Saul Winstein Chair in Organic Chemistry honors Professor Saul Winstein (1912-1969) who was one of the leading physical organic chemists of the 1950s and ‘60s, employing the tools of physical chemistry to explore reactions in solution. He was a Professor at UCLA from 1941-1969 and a UCLA alumnus. He received his B.S., M.S. at UCLA in 1934 and 1935 and then his only deviation from Bruin purity was his PhD at Caltech.   

Former holders of the Winstein Chair include two Nobel Laureates – Professor Donald Cram was the first Winstein Chair and Professor Fraser Stoddart became the second Winstein Chair in 1997. Professor Ken Houk held the Winstein Chair from 2009 to July 2021.

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Professor Saul Winstein and the holders of the Saul Winstein Chair in Organic Chemistry.

Winstein’s daughter, Dr. Carolee Winstein, a Professor of Neurology at USC, and a UCLA alumna, attended the event. Former UCLA Dean of Graduate Division and Vice Provost, Professor Robin Garrell, now the President of the CUNY Graduate Center also attended. Garrell was the interior decorator of the Winstein Commons, which was dedicated in 2004 as the Winstein Commons when Madeleine Jacobs, then of the American Chemical Society, donated her Prize for Encouraging Women in Science to UCLA to foster interactions and honor us for the strong feminine presence on our faculty that has grown since then. 

Saul Winstein’s wife Silva, his daughter Carolee, and Bruce, Carolee’s distinguished physicist brother who passed away 10 years ago, were all strong supporters of UCLA. Due to their support, that of many colleagures and admirers of Winstein, and UCLA’s Chancellor, Chuck Young, the Winstein Chair was established in 1985.

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu.