David Chavez (BS '96) has been elected to the Caltech Board of Trustees. He is a principal investigator and project leader at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico.
Growing up in a rural community in Taos, New Mexico, Chavez found few outlets for his interest in mathematics and astronomy. But that changed during high school, when Chavez was chosen to take part in a summer science program at LANL through the American Chemical Society's Project SEED I and II program. It was there that he first heard of Caltech and made up his mind about where he wanted to study. He graduated with honor in 1996.
Chavez received a PhD in chemistry from Harvard in 2003 and returned to LANL for postdoctoral work in 2003 as a Frederick Reines Distinguished Fellow. He became a staff member in 2006.
Mindful of the opportunities offered to him by the SEED program, Chavez is involved in science outreach throughout Taos. He acts as a mentor for students of all ages and serves on the local board of education to set math and science curriculums.
Chavez is now a principal investigator at LANL and a project leader in the Department of Energy (DOE)/Department of Defense Joint Munitions Program. He uses principles of organic chemistry to synthesize new kinds of high-energy molecules—such as fireworks that are brighter and produce less smoke, and compounds that can be created using environmentally friendly methods.
Chavez received Caltech's Distinguished Alumni Award in 2014 and the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award from the DOE in 2011. He is an invited professor at the École normale supérieure in France and an adjunct chemistry professor at the University of New Mexico-Taos.
The Board of Trustees is the governing body of Caltech. The Board is led by Chair David L. Lee (PhD '74) and Vice Chair Ronald K. Linde (MS '62, PhD '64). It is currently composed of 40 trustees, 28 senior trustees, 19 life members, and one honorary life member.