Author: Heike Brueckner

Luyi Sun Awarded Spring 2016 Scholarship Facilitation Fund Award

By Rhonda Ward

Dr. Luyi Sun
Dr. Luyi Sun

Dr. Luyi Sun is the recipient of a Spring 2016 Scholarship Facilitation Fund Award from the Office of the Vice President. for Research for Publication in Nature Communications, a Premium Open-access Journal for Maximum Impact. The Office of the Vice President for Research provides financial support up to $2,000 to faculty across all disciplines, on a competitive basis, to promote, support, and enhance the research, scholarship and creative endeavors of faculty at UConn. The Scholarship Facilitation Fund (SFF) is designed to assist faculty in the initiation, completion, or advancement of research projects, scholarly activities, creative works, or interdisciplinary initiatives that are critical to advancing the faculty member’s scholarship and/or creative works.

Polymer Program Researchers Kelly Burke and Anson Ma Receive CT Regenerative Medicine Grant

By: Kelly A. Salzo

Kelly Burke
Kelly Burke (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

The CT Regenerative Medicine Research Fund Advisory Committee has awarded Dr. Kelly A. Burke (IMS/CBE) and Co-Investigator Anson W. K. Ma (IMS/CBE) a seed grant titled “Human intestine tissue model by 3D printing”. The grant will provide $200,000 for the research endeavor involving chemically modified silk proteins to be used for 3D printing, which will subsequently form stable hydrodels. These materials will be printed into intestine-like crypt structures and will incorporate cells from human intestine to improve understanding on how the geometry of the system alters the function of the cells. Dr. Burke is hopeful that “the data generated will not only advance our efforts in 3D printing soft materials, but will also enhance understanding of how cells interact and undergo repair processes in cultures with geometries that are more representative of the human intestine.” The applications of this research will be important to the study of intestine tissue models, which may be used to investigate disease progression and to develop therapeutics.

Anson Ma (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)
Anson Ma (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Dr. Kelly A. Burke received her Ph.D. in Macromolecular Science and Engineering from Case Western Reserve University in 2010. In 2014, she joined UConn as an assistant professor in the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department and is a member of the IMS Polymer Program. Her research interests include synthesis and structure-property relationships of multifunctional polymeric materials, stimuli responsive polymers and networks, natural and synthetic biomaterials, and the design and application of polymeric systems to modulate inflammation and promote healing.

Dr. Anson W. K. received his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Cambridge in 2009. He joined UConn in 2011 as an assistant professor in the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department and the IMS Polymer Program. As Principal Investigator for the Complex Fluids Laboratory, his research centers on understanding the complex flow behavior (rheology) and processing of various complex fluids including foams, emulsions, nanoparticle suspensions, and biological fluids.

IMS Researcher Anson Ma Receives 2015 Metzner Early Career Award

By: Kelly A. Salzo

Anson W. K. Ma
Assistant Professor Anson W. K. Ma (IMS/CBE)

Anson W. K. Ma (IMS/CBE), Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, will receive the 2015 Arthur B. Metzner Early Career Award. This distinguished award, named after rheology pioneer Arthur B. Metzner, is distributed annually by the Society of Rheology to a young researcher “who has distinguished him/herself in rheological research, rheological practice, or service to rheology.” Dr. Ma will deliver a plenary lecture at the upcoming 87th Society of Rheology Annual Meeting in Baltimore, where he will receive a plaque and a $7,500 honorarium.

Anson W. K. Ma received his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Cambridge in 2009. He joined UConn in 2011 as a member of both the IMS Polymer Program and the Chemical Engineering Program. As Principal Investigator of the Complex Fluids Laboratory, his research focuses on understanding the complex flow behavior (rheology) and processing of various complex fluids including foams, emulsions, nanoparticle suspensions, and biological fluids. His lab is developing new techniques to improve the reliability and push the existing resolution limit of inkjet and 3D printing technology. Dr. Ma’s research on 3D printing has recently been featured on the front page of the Chronicle newspaper and Channel 8 News. In 2012, Dr. Ma received TA Instrument’s Distinguished Young Rheologist Award, which recognizes product innovation and research of new materials and applications that expand the field of rheology. The following year he received a prestigious NSF CAREER Award for his research on exploiting the size and shape of particles to improve the stability of emulsions typically found in agricultural, pharmaceutical, and personal care products. More recently, Dr. Ma is leading a major effort to establish a center of excellence for additive manufacturing of soft materials at UConn. The mission is to accelerate technology transfers to the industry and to provide an important training ground for future workforce in advanced manufacturing.

Sonia Chavez Receives the LSAMP Fellowship

By Kelly A. Salzo

Sonia ChavezGraduate Student Sonia Chavez of the IMS Polymer Program has received the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Bridge to the Doctorate (BD) fellowship. Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), this program provides continued support for students who participated in an LSAMP program during their undergraduate, offering up to two additional years of STEM education at the graduate level.

Sonia’s fellowship is part of LSAMP’s initiative to encourage and support “historically under-represented students in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.” During her undergraduate studies at DePaul University, Sonia became involved with the Chicago Initiative for Research and Recruitment in Undergraduate Science (CIRRUS), NSF’s STEM Talent Expansion Program (STEP), and the Society for Advancement of Hispanics/Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS). Each organization shares a common goal to increasing the number of students graduating with STEM degrees, particularly students from populations currently underserving in these fields.

Sonia’s participation within these programs has provided her with opportunities to attend and organize support workshops for under-represented students. Additionally, she helped implement outreach activities to expose inner city children to science. By being awarded the LSAMP fellowship, Sonia hopes to continue her outreach and professional development, while devoting the rest of her time to

Douglas Adamson Joins TRI Board of Directors

By: Kelly A. Salzo

Associate Professor Douglas Adamson
Associate Professor Douglas Adamson

Dr. Douglas Adamson, (IMS/CHEM) Associate Professor in the Chemistry Department, has just been appointed to the board of directors of TRI/Princeton. Dr. Adamson joins a team dedicated to TRI’s mission of promoting the advancement of science and the enhancement of innovation, while pursuing potential contributions to society. The board of director’s diverse scientific disciplines allow for an interdisciplinary approach to surface science, materials science, optical measurement, and fluid/pore interaction. Doug becomes the only academic member of the board, with other members being senior scientists from companies such as DuPont, Johnson & Johnson, and Procter and Gamble.

TRI/Princeton is divided into a variety of laboratories and centers dedicated to serving industry, government, and academia. In addition to research, TRI’s Professional Education Program offers a variety of conferences, workshops and courses to provide its members with the tools to accommodate industry’s ever-changing needs. As their website explains, “We remain vigilant in seeking new opportunities and discoveries that will sustain the Institute into the future while remaining true to our principle of inspiring, educating and connecting through science.”

Graduate Student Feature: Garrett Kraft

By: Kelly A. Salzo

Garrett Kraft
Garrett Kraft

“One of the things I really like about working in the polymer industry is that you can make a material that is tangible and has unique properties which make it different from any other material that’s out there,” Garrett explains. “This creates the opportunity to construct high performance materials for very specific applications.”

IMS graduate student Garrett Kraft realized his passion for polymer science while pursuing his bachelor’s degree in chemistry at the University of Wisconsin. After receiving his degree, Garrett sought out schools with strong polymer science programs and UConn’s prestigious Polymer Program caught his eye.

During his three years at in the IMS Polymer Program, Garrett has worked on a number of research projects under the direction of Dr. Douglas Adamson, which include developing adhesives that selectively bind particles in a complex mixture, investigating the use of synthetic non-peptide based polymers to mimic the catalytic activity of proteins, and exploring the applications of two-dimensional materials in polymer composites. He is also currently working on a project with ExxonMobil, creating polymers with a very narrow polydispersity and complex architectures.

Garrett attributes his current success in the field to being open to change. The materials science industry is in constant flux due to innovations in technology, which is one of the aspects of materials science he finds most compelling. “Research is always evolving and you are always finding new skills to develop,” Garrett says. He also finds his communication skills crucial to his success in the lab, as well as his constant curiosity.

In the future, Garrett is interested in pursuing green technology, specifically deriving or isolating monomers from biological feedstocks and creating materials which can break down naturally. Finite petroleum resources and environmental concerns make this area of research very appealing to polymer scientists.

Besides conducting graduate research, Garrett serves as president of the UConn Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) student chapter. Under Garrett’s direction, the UConn chapter recently applied for official status as a student chapter and since then, the student chapter garnered support from the National chapter, including a visit from the CEO and financial support. Very recently, the organization received national recognition and has been awarded the Outstanding Student Chapter Award which Garrett will receive at the ANTEC conference in Orlando, Florida at the end of the month. Garrett also spearheaded the initiative to make UConn’s chapter more engaging for its members by organizing plant tours and research seminars. “We have also been trying to connect more with alumni,” Garrett explains. “Two previous alumni came in and gave us insight on what they are doing currently, what exactly happens after grad school, and how the job searching process works so students can see what they can do with their degree.”

When asked what advice he would give to other students pursuing a career in material science, Garrett says: “Always keep on exploring. Try to find more information about areas you are interested in by talking to different people, whether they are students, faculty, or people in industry. Hopefully by talking to different people, you discover something you find fascinating enough to research for your Ph.D.”

IMS Hosts SPE CT Section February Meeting

By Kelly A. Salzo

 SPE officers, SPE CT-section members, students and faculty
Left to Right: Richard Nunn*, Robert Hammond*, Mark Corbett*, Lalit Mahajan, James Martin*, YoungHee Chudy, Russell Broome+, Sarah Sullinger+, Greg Treich, Sue Wojnicki+, Garrett Kraft, Associate Professor Luyi Sun. (*SPE CT section members; +SPE National Office)

The Polymer Program and the UConn Society of Plastics Engineers student chapter co-sponsored the SPE CT section February meeting on Wednesday, February 18th, 2015. Three officers from the SPE CT section and four members of the SPE national office attended the meeting.

The Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE), an international organization dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and education for all plastics professions, organizes a monthly meeting to discuss recent developments within the organization. The UConn SPE chapter was selected to host the February meeting.

The meeting opened with a presentation by Mr. Russell Broome, the SPE Managing Director, entitled, “From a College Student to a Young Professional to an Industry Veteran” offering valuable advice to current students interested in a career in industry. Following the presentation a number of exciting announcements were made. First, the SPE Connecticut Section announced their plans to sponsor a student to attend the ANTEC and NPE national conference in Orlando, Florida, March 23rd through 25th. The SPE headquarters also expressed their intentions to partner with industry to sponsor students, eliminating the student membership fee. The current trial phase has seen student membership double over the past 6 months. Additionally, Russell Broome and SPE headquarters revealed their new networking and social media tool called the Chain. Inspired by LinkedIn, the Chain is an online forum divided into several communities including technical and social topics, and career connections with the goal to connect plastic professionals with an easy to navigate interface.

Around 40 students attended the meeting, interested in the opportunity to learn about new developments in the polymer and plastics industry in Connecticut and network with industry professionals on the SPE national board.

In addition to hosting the SPE February meeting the UConn student chapter has also organized various events and activities including tours of local plants in the industry and outreach programs increasing education in polymers from elementary school through high school. During the Polymer Program Seminar Series, SPE members volunteer by supervising equipment and setting up refreshments. Additionally, the organization arranges the SPE Student Seminar Series that invites field leaders, senior students and postdoctoral fellows from the Southern New England area to present on polymer related topics.

For more information on becoming a student member please contact the UConn SPE student president, Garrett Kraft.

Rajeswari Kasi is New Program Director for IMS Polymer Program

Kasi_Jan 2015Rajeswari M. Kasi has been appointed Program Director of the IMS Polymer Program, succeeding Douglas Adamson who served in the position from 2011 to now.

Prof. Kasi is Associate Professor of Chemistry with an appointment in IMS. She was a 2008 recipient of the NSF CAREER award and has published extensively in journals including the Journal of Physical Chemistry, the Journal of Applied Polymer Science, and the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

UConn Scientists Featured in C&EN for Graphene Foam Research

Adamson, Douglas
Douglas Adamson

The Polymer Program of the Institute of Materials Science was recently mentioned in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), a weekly magazine published by the American Chemical Society, for research concerning graphene foam materials. The article highlights the work of polymer chemist Dr. Douglas H. Adamson (IMS/CHEM), polymer physicist Dr. Andrey Dobrynin (IMS/PHYS), and graduate student Steven J Woltornist (IMS/CHEM), and their revolutionary approach to creating new materials based on the strong attraction of pristine (not oxidized) graphene to high-energy oil and water interfaces. In the past, graphene’s applications have been severely limited due to its insolubility in water and other common organic solvents. To fix this problem, researchers had either relied on chemically altered graphene, which is expensive and ultimately has inferior properties, or extensive mechanical treatments that led to tearing the graphene sheets apart. Instead of viewing graphene’s insolubility as a limitation, the team exploited it by using it to stabilize the high-energy interfaces found in water in oil emulsions. Overlapping pristine graphene sheets at the water/oil interface lead to a local thermodynamic minimum, resulting in stable water in oil emulsions with the water droplets lined with thin layers of graphene. Using a monomer with dissolved initiator as the oil phase, leads to the formation of polymer in the continuous phase, after gentle heating. When the water is removed, a rigid foam remains, which is strong, conductive, and light-weight. These foams and can be used as building materials, ultracapacitor electrodes, conductive catalyst supports, and filters.

Dobrynin, Andrey
Andrey Dobrynin

Dr. Douglas Adamson joined UConn in August 2008 as an Associate Professor in the Polymer Program and received his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California in 1991. His research focuses on polymer synthesis for use in self-assembly as well as using graphene and other two-dimensional sheet like materials for composites.

Dr. Andrey Dobrynin joined UConn in 2001, earned his Ph.D. from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology in 1991 and is a professor in the Polymer Program. His research focuses on computational approaches to polymeric materials and polymer based nanocomposites.

Steven J Woltornist joined UConn in January 2012 as a teaching assistant for general chemistry, while pursuing a Ph.D. in polymer chemistry. In May 2013, he joined the Adamson research group. His research specializes in the discovery and development of graphene-based materials.