Xueju “Sophie” Wang has been awarded an Office of Naval Research (ONR) 2024 Young Investigator Award in the category Ocean Battlespace Sensing. The Ocean Battlespace Sensing Department of ONR explores science and technology in the areas of oceanographic and meteorological observations, modeling, and prediction in the battlespace environment; submarine detection and classification (anti-submarine warfare); and mine warfare applications for detecting and neutralizing mines in both the ocean and littoral environment.
One of 24 recipients in various categories, Dr. Wang’s research, entitled A Soft Intelligent Robot for Self-digging, Multi-modal Sensing, and In Situ Marine Sediment Analysis, was recognized by the Littoral Geosciences and subcategory. The Littoral Geosciences and Optics program supports basic and applied research for expeditionary warfare, naval special warfare, mine warfare and antisubmarine warfare in shelf, near-shore, estuarine, riverine, and riparian environments, with a particular emphasis on robust 4D prediction of environmental characteristics in denied, distant or remote environments.
Dr. Wang earned a Ph.D. from Georgia Institute of Technology in 2016. She joined the faculty of the Materials Science and Engineering Department (MSE) in 2020 with an appointment in the Institute of Materials Science (IMS). Since then, she has earned extensive recognition for her research including the National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award in 2022; the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Trailblazer Award, also in 2022; and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Orr Early Career Award in 2021 among others.
Wang’s research focuses on soft, stimuli-responsive materials and multifunctional structures; multistability of reconfigurable, magnetically responsive structures, flexible/pressure-tolerant/bio-integrated electronics, soft robotics and intelligent systems; and in-situ/environmental operando experimental techniques. Her research has been published extensively.
After completing a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Lanzhou University in Gansu province, China, Zaili Hou became a Polymer Ph.D. student in the UConn IMS Polymer Program. With a desire to focus his research on hybrid functional materials, Zaili joined Dr. Luyi Sun’s research group in 2018.
Hybrid functional materials, which consist of two or more distinct components with unique physical and chemical properties, exhibit synergistic properties, making them highly versatile and suitable for applications in various fields, including energy, healthcare, optics, and electronics. Zaili’s research led him to his dissertation topic, “Hybrid Functional Materials with Multiscale Architecture Design.” He successfully defended his dissertation in March 2023 and earned his doctoral degree as a result.
Reflecting on his time at UConn Zaili noted that he received excellent training and felt a strong sense of community during his time in the UConn IMS Polymer Program, which left him with a very positive overall experience. He says he appreciated access to the numerous core labs in IMS and the training available from the technical staff. He felt that direct access to the instrumentation in those labs gave him a better understanding of the science and contributed to his successful research. He also emphasized that the multi-disciplinary foundation of IMS helped create a community with multiple perspectives on the research. In addition to disciplinary diversity, Zaili also enjoyed the cultural diversity found in IMS. This helped him learn about various religions, philosophies, and cultural practices around the world.
With a desire to contribute to a better planet, Zaili began his career with World Centric, a company dedicated to sustainable products. World Centric is creating compostable and sustainable products to help reduce plastic waste that currently pollutes our planet.
“I’m very excited about making contributions to this important cause and making practical applications of polymer science to real world issues,” Zaili said.
After completing his BS and MS in Taiwan, Chung-Hao Liu came to the US to join UConn’s Polymer Ph.D. Program. He worked under the guidance of Prof. Mu-Ping Nieh to learn the principles of self-assembly and structural characterization using neutron, x-ray, and light scattering. Chung-Hao was a productive student in scientific output with 3 lead-author, and 14 coauthored publications in prestigious peer-reviewed journals (including Journal of American Chemical Society, Angewandte Chemie, Advanced Functional Materials, Journal of Colloid and Interface Science, Nanoscale, Macromolecules, ACS Macro Letters, etc.) and more to come.
Reflecting on his experience at UConn, Chung-Hao says he loved the collaborative nature of the Institute of Materials Science with both faculty and students. The interdisciplinary research projects allowed him to speak with chemists and engineers from various backgrounds. He also noted that faculty were always open to providing help whenever he encountered problems. Chung-Hao also enjoyed freedom in research the pursuit of research projects without being micromanaged.
Chung-Hao completed his dissertation defense, “Encapsulation and Polymerization in the Fluid Phase of a Well-Defined Bicellar Template,” in spring 2023 and has started his new journey as a postdoctoral scientist in the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee, in July 2023.
UConn’s Future Climate Venture Studio has created a fellowship program designed to provide tangible experiences for students interested in learning in start-ups, marketing, commercialization, venture development, and research around climate change. Materials Science PhD. student, Amy Pollock, is one of three UConn graduate students to receive the fellowship. Fellows were selected for their excellent writing skills, science, technical, or business background, interest in the entrepreneurial process, interest in addressing climate change, and their ability to work independently and handle confidential material. The program partners each student with 2 start-up companies that need advice and/or assistance within a specific discipline. This enables the companies to have access to scientist working in their field while the students gain insight regarding the many challenges of creating and maintaining a startup company. The program is one more example of UConn’s support of entrepreneurship for both students as well as faculty.
The polymer program honored Dr. Jaime A. Gómez as the 2023 Distinguished Alumni.
Dr. Gomez completed his Polymer Ph.D. at UConn in 1989 before beginning his career as a scientist and organizational leader. He has had a successful career including both research and leadership roles. On Friday, September 8, he opened the fall 2023 Polymer Seminar series with his talk titled, “Unexpected Challenges in the Life of a Polymer Scientist”. The talk included stories of research, product development, and exploring various real world challenges during his 30-year career as a polymer scientist. The theme of his presentation is that scientists build a foundation of knowledge and skills during their academic career, but face new and unexplored fields in the industrial setting.
Dr. Gómez received a BS in Chemical Engineering from Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana in Colombia, an MS in Organic Chemistry from Wichita State University, Kansas, and a Ph.D. in Polymer Science from the University of Connecticut. In addition to his scientific education, Dr. Gómez received an MBA from New York University (Stern School of Business) with concentration in International Business, Finance & Marketing. Dr. Gómez has 30-years of industry experience that includes plastics, specialty chemicals, and materials handling—industries where he has conducted basic and applied research, evaluation and acquisitions of technologies and companies, international business development, and corporate strategic planning. Gómez is currently President & CEO of Equitech, a company dedicated to the in-line measurement of chemical concentration, and color and film thickness for a myriad of industries.
Dr. Gómez has been an active member and leader of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) for the past 35 years. He joined the Society ofPlastics Engineers in 1987 while pursuing his Polymer Ph.D. here at the UConn, serving as the SPE’s Student Chapter President for two terms. He also served as a member of SPE’s Extrusion Division Board of Directors for six years and helped establish the Next Generation Advisory Board (NGAB). Dr. Gómez has been a member of SPE’s Board of Directors since 2013 and has served as SPE’s Secretary, Treasurer, VP Marketing & Communications, VP Events, and President-Elect. He received SPE’s President’s Cup in 2014 and the Excellence in Mentoring Award in 2017. He also invented and directed The Plastics Race™, an event that promotes networking and knowledge exchange between SPE members. Gómez was named President of SPE for the 2020-2021 term.
Polymer rheology expert, Montgomery (Monty) Shaw, was celebrated at the Society of Plastic Engineers (SPE) Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition (ANTEC) in Denver Colorado this past March. Over the past 30+ years, Dr. Shaw made vital contributions to polymer science and engineering that were shared in over 200 seminars and courses taught at the University of Connecticut. His books: Introduction to Polymer Rheology; Electrorheology; Water Treeing in Solid Dielectrics; and Introduction to Polymer Viscoelasticity have received citing by thousands of scientists and have been used in curriculums throughout the world. These books have been valued for both content and the method of communicating the ideas. His lifelong contributions to polymer science and engineering were celebrated at the daylong event. The symposium, organized by UConn’s Prof. Luyi Sun and Prof. Emertus Robert Weiss, included 13 speakers from both industry and academia.
Dr. Shaw’s began his career at Union Carbide Corp. before joining the University of Connecticut’s Polymer Program as a Professor of Chemical Engineering in 1978. He also gained experience with two year-long sabbaticals at DuPont and Sandia National Laboratories. Dr. Shaw states that, “if you change your environment, you learn new things”. This variety of experience helped him see various aspects of the field and recognize the importance of practical applications in academic research. His peers boast about the deep level of investigation Dr. Shaw made in all the details of rheology. This level of understanding sheds light on every step of the process, leaving nothing unseen.
During his more than 30 years as a UConn faculty member, Dr. Shaw was the major advisor of 44 students, helping develop the next generation of polymer scientists. Although he retired in 2009, Dr. Shaw continues to train and assist the students and faculty of the UConn IMS Polymer Program. He also served in leadership roles for the Society of Rheology. His positive attitude and love for science has made Dr. Shaw an integral leader of the Polymer community at the University of Connecticut and throughout the world.
Details of the symposium can be found at this LINK.
The IMS Polymer Program, IMS Materials Science Program, and the Materials Science and Engineering Department held their first in-person poster session since 2019 in the brand new building, Science 1. The COVID pandemic put this traditional event on hold for 3 years. Forty two graduate students from twenty research labs presented posters. Students welcomed the opportunity to share their research and ideas with other students, faculty, and guests from industry. The session, coordinated alongside the IMS Industrial Affiliates Program (IAP) 2023 Annual Meeting, brought over 100industry partners to meet the students and faculty participants. The new building with its open layout added energy to the event. IMS thanks participants for a truly successful day.
Polymer Ph.D. student, Xiangyi Xi was the 2023 recipient of the Stephanie H. Shaw Scholarship. She made some major contributions in developing biosensors for the Papadimitrakopoulos research lab. She helped implement a multi-potential step pulsing test technique which lead to increased sensitivity and reduced power consumption of implantable glucose sensors. This lead to a patent currently in application. More recently, she has helped develop of an enzymatic cascade sensor. In addition to her research, Xiangyi has continued to mentor the next wave of scientists, including 10 undergraduates over the past 5 years. Xiangyi is pictured with Polymer Director, Dr. Kelly Burke.
Polymer Program Ph.D. student, Hanyi Duan, was the 2023 recipient of the Samuel J. Huang Graduate Student Research Award. Hanyi was recognized for his success in research, journal articles, and strong collaborative nature in the research laboratory. As a researcher, Hanyi has taken a leading role in developing new synthetic methodology to asymmetric polymer grafted metal nanoparticles. This research was the foundation of 6 publications as lead author. Hanyi is pictured with Polymer Program Director, Dr. Kelly Burke, and his major advisor, Dr. Jie He.
Anson Ma from Polymer Program at IMS, with joint appointment in the Department of Chemical and Bimolecular Engineering, has been named the United Technologies Corporation (UTC) Professor in Engineering Innovation, effective 23 August 2022. This professorship has been established to recognize the exceptional achievements of young faculty who exemplify excellence in the areas of research productivity and impact, teaching contributions, and service contributions and are at the very top of their area of research.
Ma’s research group focuses on rheology and 3D printing. He currently serves as the UConn Site Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) SHAP3D Center for Additive Manufacturing. He has received a number of awards, including Distinguished Young Rheologist Award from TA Instruments, NSF CAREER award, Arthur B. Metzner Early Career award from the Society of Rheology, 3M Non-Tenured Faculty Award, Early Career Award from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP)-UConn Chapter, UConn Polymer Program Director’s Award for Faculty Excellence, and U.S. Air Force Summer Faculty Fellowship.