UC Santa Cruz honors alumni Thomas Webb and Susanne Hering

Physical and Biological Sciences Distinguished Alumni Awards recognize contributions to society by graduate and undergraduate alums

Thomas Webb
Thomas Webb
Susanne Hering
Susanne Hering

Medicinal chemist Thomas Webb and physicist and entrepreneur Susanne Hering are being honored by the UC Santa Cruz Division of Physical and Biological Sciences (PBSci) as the recipients of the PBSci Distinguished Alumni Awards.

The division established the awards to honor graduates of the division who have gone on to extraordinary accomplishments in diverse fields and whose careers are characterized by sustained and exemplary contributions to society through research, practice, education, policy, or service. The Physical and Biological Sciences Distinguished Alumni Awards will be presented annually to a former graduate student and a former undergraduate student.

Webb, who earned a Ph.D. in synthetic organic chemistry from UC Santa Cruz in 1980, is being honored for the impact of his work in basic science and drug discovery. He is currently the director of medicinal chemistry in the Center for Chemical Biology at SRI Biosciences, where he leads small-molecule drug discovery for cancer and influenza. His accomplishments include development of an innovative anti-tumor drug which will enter clinical trials in 2019.

Before joining SRI, Webb worked on discovery of new cancer therapeutics in the Department of Chemical Biology and Therapeutics at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where he held a senior faculty position and directed the high-throughput chemistry center. He has also held key positions at ChemBridge Corporation, Neurocrine Biosciences, Corvas International, and Genentech, Inc. An active inventor, Webb holds 32 U.S. patents. He has written two book chapters and 72 peer-reviewed publications, and he has served as a reviewer for more than 30 major scientific journals.

Hering, the founder and president of Aerosol Dynamics in Berkeley, is being honored for her impact as both a scientist and a developer of novel instruments that are advancing atmospheric science. She entered UC Santa Cruz with the pioneer class in 1965 and graduated in 1969 with a joint major in physics and history.

Both inside and outside the classroom, Santa Cruz heightened my joy of learning and showed me the thrill in intellectual discovery,” Hering said. “UCSC gave me the idealism and the academic background to pursue an unusual career, and enabled me to focus on one specific, small way in which I felt I might contribute to a better world.”

Hering continued her education at the University of Washington, earning a Ph.D. in low temperature physics in 1974. She studied atmospheric aerosols as a postdoctoral researcher at the California Institute of Technology and continues to focus her research on the fine airborne particles that create haze in the atmosphere.

In 1991, Hering founded Aerosol Dynamics to develop effective methods to measure and characterize these particles. She and her team have developed a host of new measurement techniques that have been broadly used in air quality monitoring and research. They are currently working on a miniature system that could be worn or deployed on unmanned aerial vehicles.

Hering is a past-president of the American Association for Aerosol Research (AAAR), a founding AAAR Fellow, and a recipient of AAAR’s Benjamin Y. H. Liu Award. She edited the 1989 edition of Air Sampling Instruments, a guide for industrial hygienists, and most recently she was an editor for the journal Aerosol Science and Technology.

Hering and Webb will both be speaking on campus on Friday, April 27. Webb will be participating in the Graduate Student Alumni Career Paths Panel at 10 a.m. in the Stevenson Fireside Lounge. Panelists will discuss their career paths after they earned graduate-level degrees at UC Santa Cruz. Hering will discuss her work on atmospheric aerosols at a special Physics Department colloquium for alumni, faculty, and students. The colloquium will take place at 2 p.m. in the Interdisciplinary Sciences building, Room 221, during the Physics Department Open House.

The Physical and Biological Sciences Distinguished Alumni Awards are sponsored by the PBSci dean's office.