Thiemens, Mark

Professor and Dean, Chemistry and Biochemistry
professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Division: UCSD
Phone: 858-534-6732
Fax: 858-534-5224

Bio: Mark H. Thiemens, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry who served as the interim dean of the Division of Natural Sciences, was named the first dean of the newly created Division of Physical Sciences in Fall, 2000.

Composed of the Departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Mathematics, and Physics, the Division of Physical Sciences was created in Fall 2000 to foster collaboration among researchers from different disciplines in frontier areas of science that demand an interdisciplinary approach.

From bioinformatics to nanotechnology to molecular architecture, these emerging areas of science require physicists and chemists to work hand-in-hand with mathematicians and biologists in new ways that transcend the traditional boundaries of their disciplines.

Thiemens, whose own research encompasses a wide range of disciplines and who directs UCSD's environmental science efforts in the interdisciplinary Center for Environmental Research and Training, is ideally suited to lead the division toward this innovative, multidisciplinary approach.

As a scientist, he is best known for his discovery of the 'mass-independent isotope effect,' which has improved scientific understanding in areas as diverse as climate change, the origin of the solar system, chemical physics, acid rain, and the accumulation of greenhouse gases. The discovery led to his selection for the 1998 Ernest O. Lawrence Medal, the most prestigious award given to scientists by the U.S. Department of Energy.

During the past year, work in his laboratory has concentrated on measurements of anomalous isotope variations in Martian meteorites and in the oldest-known rocks on Earth, which in recent months led to the publication of widely publicized papers in Science and Nature. These papers revealed new information about the early atmospheres of Earth and Mars and provided a new tool for scientists to infer the evolution of oxygen in the atmosphere more than 2 billion years ago, when the formation of the planet's protective layer of ozone paved the way for the spread of terrestrial life.

The recipient of a doctoral degree in chemical oceanography from Florida State University, Thiemens has been at UCSD for 20 years, arriving in 1980 after a three-year postdoctoral fellowship at the Enrico Fermi Institute for Nuclear Studies at the University of Chicago. He served as chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry from 1996 to 1999, a time during which the department grew in national and international stature. He was also one of the driving forces behind the creation of the Center for Environmental Research and Training and a new interdisciplinary undergraduate program in environmental systems.

In announcing Thiemens' appointment, Chancellor Robert C. Dynes noted that his accomplishments as the interim dean of the Natural Sciences Division 'demonstrated clearly that his leadership and vision for the academic future of the division make him uniquely suited to take on the critical position of Physical Sciences Dean.'