Year: 2024

IMS Polymer Program Honors Two Ph.D. Students

Jeff McCutcheon (l), Yasmin Bimbatti (c), and Kelly Burke (r)
Yasmin Bimbatti (center) is presented the Stephanie H. Shaw Scholarship Award from Drs. Jeffrey McCutcheon (l) and Kelly Burke (r).

The IMS Polymer Program recognized the accomplishments of two Ph.D. students, bestowing the Samuel J. Huang Student Research Award on Tianjian Wang, and the Stephanie H. Shaw Scholarship on Yasmin Bimbatti.

The Stephanie H. Shaw Scholarship was established 1990 to recognize a female student showing academic achievement as well as contributions outside of research.

Tianjian Yang receives the Samuel J. Huang Graduate Student Research Award from Dr. Yao Lin (left) and Dr. Kelly Burke (right)
Tianjian Yang receives the Samuel J. Huang Graduate Student Research Award from Dr. Yao Lin (l) and Dr. Kelly Burke (r)

The Samuel J. Huang Student Research Award recognizes a graduate student for outstanding research in the field of polymer science and engineering. Tianjian Yang is a member of Dr. Yao Lin's research group.  He was recently named a finalist for the Eastman Chemical Student Award in Applied Polymer Science, which recognizes graduate researchers who demonstrates research excellence in both research and technical presentations. Yang's research has been published in such journals as the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS), the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), and MDPI.

Pragati Rout Wins Inaugural Boehringer Ingelheim Fellowship

Ph.D. student Pragati Rout
Ph.D. Student Pragati Rout

Pragati Rout has won the first award in the newly-created Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc. Fellowship.  The fellowship recognizes the early academic and research accomplishments of a chemistry student’s graduate studies. It awards $5,000 of support in the third summer of the student’s academic journey toward their doctorate degree, allowing the recipient to focus on their doctoral dissertation.

Pragati, a student in Dr. Gregory Sotzing’s group, received her M.S. degree from Berhampur University, Odisha, India.  Her research focuses on synthesis and characterization of API’s, monomers and oligomers and exploring their fluorescence properties, hydrogels, and optical brighteners. She is currently conducting cannabinoid research.

Boehringer Ingelheim is one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, and the largest private one.

Tianjian Yang is 2024 Finalist for Eastman Chemical Student Award

Tianjian Yang
Ph.D. student, Tianjian Yang, is a finalist for the Eastman Chemical Student Award in Applied Polymer Science.

Tianjian Yang, a Ph.D. student in the IMS Polymer Program, has been selected as a finalist for the Eastman Chemical Student Award in Applied Polymer Science.  The award recognizes graduate researchers who demonstrate research excellence in both research and technical presentations.

Tianjian earned his M.S. degree from the University of California, San Diego, and a B.S. from Jinan University in China.  A student in Dr. Yao Lin’s group, his research interests include supramolecular polymerization and material properties of polypeptides. He is first author of several published research papers.

In August 2024, as part of the Eastman Chemical Award Symposium at the Fall 2024 ACS Meeting in Denver, Colorado, each finalists will give a presentation. Tianjian will present, “From Polypeptides to Biomimetic Materials: Harnessing Auto-Accelerated ROP-NCA for Tailored Mechanical Properties”.

To learn more about the award, visit:

Charlotte Chen Receives Grant from NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program

Charlotte Chen
Charlotte Chen '24

Charlotte Chen ’24 (ENG & CLAS), a senior from Westport, pursuing dual degrees in biomedical engineering and molecular and cell biology has received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) grant. Her research in the lab of IMS Polymer Program Director and Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Kelly Burke aims to modify silk films with antibacterial monomers to potentially prevent catheter-associated urinary tract infections.

“Being awarded an NSF-GRFP means that I get a lot more freedom with my doctoral studies– what my research project is, who my research advisors are, and where I want to conduct the research,” says Chen.

She served as president and as a conductor in UConn’s chamber orchestra and played violin in the symphony orchestra. She was a recipient of the Wiliam P. O’Hara Endowed Scholarship which provides funding for an honors student who demonstrates academic achievement, is enrolled full-time in either CLAS or the School of Fine Arts and demonstrates an interest in music.

Charlotte is also the digital editor for The Daily Campus. She will be a doctoral student at Brown in the fall to pursue a degree in biomedical engineering with the long-term goal of a career in the biotech industry.

Benjamin Hsiao Returns to UConn as Polymer Program Distinguished Alumni

Drs. Kelly Burke and Jeffrey McCutcheon presents Dr. Benjamin Hsaio with IMS Polymer Program Distinguished Alumni Award.
Drs. Kelly Burke (left) and Jeffrey McCutcheon (right) present Dr. Benjamin Hsaio (center) with IMS Polymer Program Distinguished Alumni Award.

Having earned his B.S. in chemical engineering from National Taiwan University, Benjamin S. Hsiao arrived at the University of Connecticut in 1982 in pursuit of his Ph.D.  Under the guidance of Professors Ed Samulski and Montgomery Shaw, Hsiao completed his Materials Science Ph.D. in 1987.  He has since built a exceptional reputation and stellar career which the IMS Polymer Program recognized by naming him a Distinguished Alumni. On April 24, 2024, Dr. Hsaio returned to Storrs to deliver a presentation for the program’s Distinguished Alumni Seminar.

Dr. Hsaio completed a two-year postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Massachusetts with a dual focus on chemistry as well as polymer science and engineering.  He spent eight years refining his research skills with DuPont before returning to academia as an assistant professor of chemistry at Stony Brook University where his accomplishments include 470 published papers, 40 patents, and the mentorship of 37 doctoral students. Stony Brook University recognized him with the prestigious title, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry. Additional accomplishments include serving as the Co-founding Director of the Innovative Global Energy Solutions Center and the Director of the Center for Advanced Technology in Integrated Electric Energy Systems at Stony Brook University. A complete biography can be found at:

Dr. Benjamin Hsaio makes his presentation during the IMS Polymer Program Distinguished Alumni Seminar
Dr. Benjamin Hsaio makes his presentation during the IMS Polymer Program Distinguished Alumni Seminar

Dr. Hsiao’s distinguished alumni presentation, From Nanocellulose Technologies to New Circular Solutions for Agriculture, explained his innovative approach to repurposing agricultural waste for the creation of polymer products, .

The reunion of Dr. Hsiao with Prof. Robert Weiss and co-advisor Prof. Montgomery Shaw was joyous and the entire department was eager to meet the esteemed alumni.

Collaborative Research to Develop Filament-Based Hydrogels is Cover for JACS

Yao Lin JACS cover imageIn a collaborative effort, researchers from the University of Connecticut (led by Profs. Yao Lin, VJ Kumar and Xudong Yao) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (led by Prof. Jianjun Cheng) have made an advance in the rational design of synthetic polypeptides to develop filament-based hydrogels. The work, conceptualized and realized by the graduate students Tianjian Yang (UConn) and Tianrui Xue (UIUC), has been published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS) and featured as the cover of the March 6 issue.

Building on the recent advancement of autoaccelerated ring-opening polymerization of amino acid N-carboxyanhydrides (NCAs), this study strategically explores a series of random copolymers comprising multiple amino acids, aiming to elucidate the core principles governing gelation pathways of these purpose-designed copolypeptides. The team found that the selection of amino acids steered both the morphology of fibril superstructures and their assembly kinetics, subsequently determining their potential to form sample-spanning networks. Importantly, the viscoelastic properties of the resulting supramolecular hydrogels can be tailored according to the specific copolypeptide composition through modulations in filament densities and lengths. The findings enhance our understanding of directed self-assembly in high molecular weight synthetic copolypeptides, offering valuable insights for the development of synthetic fibrous networks and biomimetic supramolecular materials with custom-designed properties.

The research was supported by NSF grants awarded to Yao Lin at UConn (DMR 1809497 and 2210590) and Jianjun Cheng at UIUC (CHE 1905097).


Jiuzhou Zhao Completes Ph.D. in Polymer Science

Jiuzhou Zhao
Jiuzhou Zhao

After completing his Master’s degree at Akron University, Jiuzhou joined the UConn Polymer Ph.D. Program. Under the advisement of Professor Fotios Papadimitrakopoulos, he explored the world of polymer coatings, leading to his dissertation: “Layer-by-layer Assembled Polamide for Endogenous Redox-Active Interference Molecules Rejection”.

Jiuzhou returned home in China to begin a research and development position in the petroleum industry.

Congratulations Jiuzhao!

College of Engineering Poster Competition

Antigoni Konstantinou (Materials Science), Max Wondolowski (civil Engineering), and Wei Ruan (Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering)
Antigoni Konstantinou (Materials Science), Max Wondolowski (civil Engineering), and Wei Ruan (Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering)

Two Institute of Materials Science students received recognition at the College of Engineering’s 10th Annual Poster Competition. Held on February 23, the competition included 95 posters from UConn engineering students.

Chemical & Biomolecular Ph.D. student, Wei Ruan from the Burke Laboratory of Polymeric Materials received 3rd place prize with the poster entitled “High Throughput Fabrication of Thin Electrocaloric Materials Films Enabled by Additive Manufacturing”.

Antigoni Konstantinou with her 1st place poster
Antigoni Konstantinou with her 1st place poster

Materials Science Ph.D. student, Antigoni Konstantinou, from The Electrical Insulation Research Center, received the highly esteemed 1st place prize with the poster, “2D Coating for Insulation of Variable Frequency Drives.”

Chromogenic Identification of Breakdown

Professors Greg A. Sotzing and Pritish S. Aklujkar have been working with high temperature dielectrics used in high energy density capacitors. They are developing a new generation of all-organic polymer dielectric capacitors that can withstand high temperature conditions, eliminating the need for coolant systems. These capacitors will have a number of applications, including electric-vehicle charging stations and Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch Systems (EMALS) used to catapult jets from aircraft carriers. Their paper, “Chromogenic Identification of Breakdown” was published in Nature Materials, February, 2, 2024. Visit Nature Materials to read the complete article.

Catherine Cheu Completes Ph.D.

Catherine Cheu
Catherine Cheu, Ph.D.

After completing her Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering here at UConn, Catherine joined the polymer Ph.D. program. Under the advisement of Prof. Mu-Ping Nieh, she completed her dissertation: “Small Angle Scattering Modeling for Analyzing Refined Internal Structures of Lipid Nanodiscs (Bicelles).”