The Symmetry in Chemistry

“As Fullerene symbolizes the symmetry of disciplines uniting for solutions, it also brings a new and meaningful symmetry to campus, since it complements the other most prominent piece of public art on a road leading to UF, the DNA Bridge,” said UF President Kent Fuchs.

The Symmetry in Chemistry

Faculty, staff, students, alumni, friends: Good morning!  What a privilege to share this joyful moment with you!

I am pleased to thank Vice Chair Hosseini and Mr. Hernandez for their words and outstanding support of Joseph Hernandez Hall. 

Likewise, we owe thanks to many leaders and supporters of the chemistry department and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, both past and present.  It is because of their vision and persistence that we reach this historic day for our students, campus and state.

Chemistry has long been a cornerstone of the University of Florida:

  • It anchored UF scientific research in our earliest years.
  • Its professors and graduate students contributed much to building the university’s excellence and reputation through the decades. Indeed, UF’s most recent Nobel Prize winning alumnus, Robert Grubbs, earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from chemistry.
  • And, chemistry continues to ground the UF education, with more than half of our undergraduates taking at least one chemistry class while enrolled. 

With Joseph Hernandez Hall, chemistry gains a home that suits its stature.  This is reflected in the majesty of this new atrium, the perfection of its study and research facilities … and the stunning sculpture that hangs just outside in the front-entrance portico.

This sculpture was made by a London artist, Tony Stallard.  It is composed of stainless steel and LEDs and named for the molecule it depicts: Fullerene.

As the scientists and engineers in the audience know, fullerenes are hollow carbon molecules that form closed cages or cylinders. They are new to the scientific cannon; the first fullerene was discovered in 1985 by three scientists in who shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work.

The fullerene opened a new chapter in science and has much potential for technology and nanotechnology.  But what also makes it special, and what Mr. Stallard has captured powerfully, is the molecule’s profoundly elegant symmetry.

To me, this beautiful symmetry bridges many of the different disciplines that are at the core of this university: Chemistry and the sciences, and also engineering, mathematics, architecture, and of course, art.  Fullerene tell us that when these disciplines come together, the result is a new and beautiful solution.

Joseph Hernandez Hall, adding to UF’s other world-class research and teaching facilities, will encompass that potent symmetry.  It will build the broad knowledge and skills that are most needed to tackle the immensely large and complex challenges confronting humanity.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Stallard last fall at the opening for his exhibition Alpha at UF’s Gary R. Libby Gallery.  The installation featured his collaborative piece made with Nicole Horenstein, a UF professor of chemistry.  It was a thrill to see what artists and chemists could create together!

As Fullerene symbolizes the symmetry of disciplines uniting for solutions, it also brings a new and meaningful symmetry to campus.  This is because it complements the other most prominent piece of public art on a road leading to UF, the DNA Bridge on Southwest 13th Street.

Where Fullerene represents physical chemistry, the bridge models the double helix, the foundation of biological chemistry. Of course, DNA is key to the study of evolution and the advancement of medicine, biology and biotechnology.  Thanks to Fullerene and the bridge, we now have … at the north and south ends of campus … the core of what we do at UF and all research universities.

As we celebrate the opening of Joseph Hernandez Hall and this outstanding new chemistry building, let us also renew and celebrate our shared dedication to science, truth … and especially to beautiful shared solutions.  Thank you!