In Wake of Lieber Leave, Betley and Kahne Appointed Interim Harvard Chemistry Department Chairs


Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay announced that a pair of professors will head the Chemistry department at a faculty meeting Tuesday after erstwhile chair Charles M. Lieber was placed on administrative leave last week after being charged in federal court with failing to disclose funding from the Chinese government.

Chemistry professors Theodore A. Betley and Daniel Kahne will serve as interim co-chairs of the department in Lieber's place.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Gay addressed the federal charges against Lieber and introduced Betley and Kahne’s new roles.

“The charges brought by the U.S. government against Professor Lieber are extremely serious; he has been placed on administrative leave,” she said. “Professors Dan Kahne and Ted Betley have agreed to co-chair CCB for the rest of this academic year, and for this I am deeply grateful.”


In a statement provided by Harvard spokesperson Anna Cowenhoven, Dean of Science Christopher W. Stubbs wrote the search for a new chair for the department had been ongoing prior to Lieber’s administrative leave.

“This was Prof. Lieber’s final year as CCB chair, and our office was in the process of considering potential successors,” Stubbs wrote. “Both Professors Kahne and Betley are held in very high regard by their colleagues, and both were strongly recommended for the Chair role.”

Stubbs said that the many responsibilities of the new department chair motivated the appointment of two co-chairs, instead of one.

Stubbs cited the “urgency” of providing support to current students, including postdoctoral positions, continuing the work of Lieber’s research group, and ongoing demands of a “large and complex department” as reasons for the double appointment.

Betley, who has taught at Harvard since 2007, leads the Betley Research Group at Harvard, which focuses on synthetic inorganic chemistry. Betley was named a top innovator under 35 by the MIT Technology Review in 2008 and received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 2013.

Kahne, a professor in the department since 2004, studies antibiotic resistance and co-teaches the popular introductory biology course, Life Sciences 1A: “An Integrated Introduction to the Life Sciences.” He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences last May and won the Gordon Hammes Lectureship Award in July.

Multiple professors said they are pleased with the selection of Kahne and Betley as co-chairs of the department.

“I think the appointment of Dan and Ted is fantastic — they both are highly committed to the department,” said Brian Liau, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology.

Betley and Kahne did not respond to requests for comment.

—Staff writer Ethan Lee can be reached at