Popular Chemistry Professor to Leave

Peter Chen Takes Offer in Switzerland Before Harvard Considers Him for Tenure

Opting not to wait for Harvard's decision on whether to tenure him, a popular chemistry professor has decided to leave the University for an appointment in Switzerland.

Students expressed disappointment yesterday that Peter Chen, a well-liked associate professor of chemistry, will depart from Harvard in the fall.

"He is one of--if not the--best professors and lecturers I have had here at Harvard," said Nupur D. Thekdi '96. "It is unfortunate that other students won't have the chance to learn from such a knowledgeable and dynamic professor."

"I took Chemistry 30 [Organic Chemistry] in the fall and Chemistry 105 [Mechanisms of Organic Reactions] in the spring, and I think he is one of the best professors at Harvard," said Clay C. Wang '96.

Wang said he took Chem 105 expressly because he so enjoyed Chen's teaching in Chem 30.

Chen said in an interview yesterday that continuing to work for Harvard was a possibility. But the University was slow to consider offering him tenure.

"I asked for early consideration," he said. "But it did not proceed far enough to make a difference" in the job.

Chen said he believed the department went as far as sending out a blind letter, which is a solicitation for outside reviews that precedes a department vote.

No tenure was even taken, Chen said.

"All other things being equal, it would have been easier to stay," he said.

Chen's loss hurts the department because he is not only a scholar but also an exceptional teacher. The professor received a CUE Guide rating of 4.8 out of a possible 5.0 for his Chem 105 class last year.

"The class was by far one of the best I've taken at Harvard," Daniel J. Moore '96 said of Chem 105. "It was in partsimply Chen's amazing familiarity with thematerial and also because of his wonderfulpersonal qualities."

Chen's departure is "a very big loss forHarvard's teaching staff," Moore added.

"I think he is an excellent professor," saidThomas B. Nguyen '95. "He seems to care about hisstudents, and he is easy to approach in general."

"I think he is one of the finest professorsI've had in this department and I really enjoyedthe class," Nguyen said. "It is a shame forundergraduates to have to see a professor likethat leave."