Author: Rhonda Ward

Alumnus Christopher Simone Reflects on Career at DuPont

Christopher Simone

Polymer Program Alumnus, Dr. Christopher Simone (’02), is featured in an article by the American Chemical Society (ACS).  Simone’s reflection on his 19-year career with DuPont addresses topics such as how to find success in research and development in the public sector.

Chris joined DuPont in 2002 as a research chemist developing new products and processes to support the Kapton® polyimide films and Pyralux® laminates portfolio within the DuPont Interconnect Solutions business. In his 19 year career, he has progressed within the research and development organization developing novel Kapton® films and associated process research for the flexible printed circuit industry.  Read the full ACS article.

Stephen Ekatan Completes Polymer Ph.D.

Dr. Stephen Ekatan
Dr. Stephen Ekatan

Dr. Stephen Ekatan completed his final dissertation, Material Properties of Complex Synthetic Macromolecules Containing Secondary Structures, in January 2021 under the advisement of Professor of Chemistry Dr. Yao Lin.

As a researcher who values the application of science, and desires to make positive contributions during his career, Dr. Ekatan has accepted a position with Nel Hydrogen, a global, dedicated hydrogen company, delivering optimal solutions to produce, store and distribute hydrogen from renewable energy. In his new role as process engineer at Nel Hydrogen, Stephen will focus on the development of coating technologies for membrane electrode assemblies used in water electrolysis to generate hydrogen.

Reflecting on his time in the IMS Polymer Program, Steve says that one of the most important skills he has developed is the ability to look at the “big picture” and examine how various areas of research intertwine, leading to new achievements in science and industry.

Dr. Jeffrey McCutcheon to be Inducted into CASE

Dr. Jeffrey McCutcheon
Dr. Jeffrey McCutcheon will be inducted into the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering on May 27.

Dr. Jeffrey R. McCutcheon, Professor and Executive Director, Fraunhofer USA Center for Energy Innovation; Al Geib Professor of Environmental Engineering Research and Education, UConn School of Engineering has been announced as an inductee in the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering (CASE) for 2021.

Dr. McCutcheon joined UConn in 2008, after receiving his Ph.D. from Yale University in 2007. He was selected to receive the Dupont Young Professor award in 2013, one of only 14 professors worldwide to receive the honor. In 2019, as an internationally recognized expert in membrane technologies for sustainable water and energy production, Dr. McCutcheon was chosen to lead UConn’s participation in the National Alliance for Water Innovation (NAWI), a research consortium awarded a five-year, $100-million Energy-Water Desalination Hub to address water security issues in the United States.

In 2020, McCutcheon lead a team developing a prototype of an emergency ventilator that could be produced by Connecticut manufacturers to help ease anticipated shortage of the devices as the novel coronavirus continued to spread across the state.

Election to the Academy is based on the applicant’s scientific and engineering distinctions, achieved through significant contributions in the form of publications, patents, outstanding leadership, and other factors.

New inductees are scheduled to be honored at the Academy’s 46th Annual Meeting that will be held virtually on May 27, 2021

From Waste to Biodiesel

Dr. Richard Parnas
Dr. Richard Parnas pumps biodiesel.

Dr. Richard Parnas’s UConn spinoff company, REA Resource Recovery Systems, broke ground in March on a first-in-the-world, FOG-to-Biodiesel production plant at the John Oliver Wastewater Treatment Facility in Danbury, CT. The City of Danbury contracted with Veollia North America to perform a 70 million dollar plant upgrade, and the REA FOG-to-Biodiesel system is included in the overall project.

The REA system makes use of a licensed UConn patent for a novel biodiesel reactor developed by Parnas and colleagues several years ago. REA sponsors work at UConn to continue development efforts on several aspects of the process including novel methods of sulfur reduction using protein/polymer conjugate gel adsorbents.

Dr. Parnas retired in 2020 after 19 years as a Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and faculty member of the Institute of Materials Science (IMS) Polymer Program.

Yanliu Dang Completes Degree in Materials Science

Dr. Yanliu Dang
Dr. Yanliu Dang

While completing her Master’s degrees in Chemical Engineering & Technology at the Beijing Institute of Technology, Yanliu Dang discovered her research area of interest, materials and catalysis. When searching for doctoral programs, she decided to come to the US in order to learn about American culture and explore research opportunities not available in China. She singled out UConn to study under the guides of one of the world’s leaders in catalysis, Prof. Steven Suib.

Her studies in catalysis at UConn led to her dissertation defense, “Design, Synthesis, and Characterization of Metal Oxide/Phosphide-Based Catalysts for Energy Applications”

In addition to catalysis, Yanliu stated that she gained significant knowledge in microscopy and material characterization. She was very grateful to have the opportunity to work on advanced instruments at UConn: Titan Themis TEM, Dual Beam FIB, and XPS to study materials and catalytic mechanisms.

Yanliu’s paper, Constructing Bifunctional 3D Holey and Ultrathin CoP Nanosheets for Efficient Overall Water Splitting, was published in July 25, 2019. Her paper, Partial Reduction of Ruthenium Oxide as Efficient and pH-Universal Electrocatalysts for Hydrogen Evolution, is currently under review. Her third paper, Self-standing Ruthenium Oxide Nanocomposite for Regenerable Electrocatalyst in Seawater Splitting, is around the corner.

Recent Ph.D. Graduate Reflects on Experience as IMS Polymer Program Student

Dr. Deepthi Varghese
Dr. Deepthi Varghese

After completing a Master’s Degree in Biochemistry from St. Josephs Arts & Science College in Bangalore, India, Deepthi Varghese joined the UConn Chemistry graduate program in the fall semester of 2014. After hearing brief research presentations from the chemistry departmental faculty, she became interested in Polymer Science with Prof. Douglas Adamson, an unexpected diversion from her initial plans for a career in biochemistry into a field in which she had no experience.

Although the lack of experience created a steep learning curve, Deepthi embraced this new research direction. While she faced challenges during the first two years, looking back, Deepthi says that she gained far more knowledge than expected, including polymer science, electro chemistry, and setting up scientific research laboratories.

Deepthi also struggled with many challenges regarding science including the fact that experiments are more likely to fail than succeed; science takes far more time than initially expected; and there is never enough time to accomplish everything. Lessons like this can be applied to all aspects of life, business, and art, as well as science.

In addition to the science, Deepthi has increased her knowledge of communications, independent learning, and keeping an open mind to feedback from all sources. She realized that you never know who will have valuable knowledge.

“Keeping an open ear and open mind allows you to learn from faculty, technicians, graduate students, and undergraduate students as well,” Deepthi says. She noted that undergraduates, especially those from outside disciplines, are also able to contribute bits of knowledge to the scientific challenges of the day.

Deepthi became involved with UConn organizations, the South Asia Community (Tarang) and the Graduate School Senate, where she was treasurer and president, respectively. This experience helped her learn organizational leadership.

Looking back on her graduate experience at UConn, Deepthi says that she grew as a scientist as well as a person. She had a number of unexpected experiences that changed her in many ways, all positive. In November, 2019, Deepthi started her professional career as a TD Etch Module Engineer at Intel, Hillsboro, Oregon.

IMS Polymer Program Members Inducted into UConn NAI Chapter

NAI Members and Inductees
NAI UConn Chapter members and inductees (Dr. Alexandru Asandei is 3rd from left, Dr. Richard Parnas is 4th from left).

IMS Polymer Program faculty members, Dr. Alexandru Asandei and Dr. Richard Parnas, were inducted into the UConn Chapter of the National Association of Inventors (NAI) in December 2019. The UConn NAI chapter was established in 2017 as the first Connecticut chapter of the national organization which was formed in 2010. The goal of NAI is to recognize and encourage academic inventors, enhance the visibility of academic technology and innovation, encourage the disclosure of intellectual property, educate and mentor innovative students, and translate the inventions of its members to benefit society.

Dr. Richard Parnas — whose research pursuits include biofuels production and separations, renewable polymers and composites, and interface engineering — holds a patent for a novel membrane that can be used to make biodiesel production more profitable by aiding the conversion of glycerol to 1,3 propanediol, a valuable platform chemical.

In 2018, Dr. Parnas and Trumbull, CT-based REA Resource Recovery Systems partnered with UConn and the Greater New Haven Water Pollution Control Authority (GNHWPCA) to place a pilot-scale demonstration system at the East Shore Water Pollution Abatement Facility in New Haven to convert brown grease to biodiesel fuel. The type of biodiesel fuel produced through this partnership, called Brown FOG (fats, oils, grease) can be used for power generation, including to power vehicles.

In May of 2019, U.S. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) and former New Haven Mayor Toni Harp visited the joint UCONN/GNHWPCA/REA project at the East Shore facility to celebrate the successful performance of the demonstration system and to kick off the effort to place a full-scale commercial system at several wastewater treatment plants in the state. Dr. Parnas has since partnered with the city of Danbury on a project to create a biodiesel production facility at that city’s water treatment plant.

Dr. Alexandru Asandei’s research interests include controlled radical polymerization, block copolymers, fluoropolymers, catalysis, biodegradable polymers, and organometallic chemistry. He holds several patents related to his research in polymer science and has served as an editorial board member for the Journal of Polymer Science: Part A: Polymer Chemistry since 2009. Dr. Asandei has served as co-organizer of the American Chemical Society (ACS) Workshop on Fluoropolymers in 2016, 2018, 2020.

In 2015, Dr. Asandei completed a month-long visiting professorship at Pôle Chimie Balard in Montpelier, France. Asandei was selected for the Chaire TOTAL program which includes a visiting professor/researcher component, an International School on Sustainable Chemistry and Energy initiative, and a scholarship program. As part of the program, Asandei presented four invited lectures. While in France, Professor Asandei also made invited presentations at the University of Toulouse and the University of Grenoble.  Dr. Asandei has been called upon to present his research at numerous conferences, universities, and industry organizations.

Members of Dr. Kasi’s Group Nominated for Best Poster at ACS Fall Meeting

Samiksha Vaidya
Samiksha Vaidya with her poster at the ACS Fall Meeting

Ian Martin
Ian Martin with his poster at the ACS Fall Meeting

Ian J. Martin and Samiksha Vaidya of Dr. Rajeswari Kasi’s research group recently attended the American Chemical Society (ACS) Fall 2019 National Meeting & Exposition in San Diego, CA and presented posters entitled “Templated perylene diimide-polydiacetylene supramolecular structures with unique chromatic transitions” and “Molecular engineering of dye incorporated liquid-crystalline polymers with different architectures”, respectively. Each of their presentations were highlighted as distinguished poster nominees in the Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering (PMSE) division.

Dr. Luyi Sun Elected as Member of CASE

Dr. Steven Suib and Dr. Luyi Sun
IMS Director Dr. Steven Suib congratulates Dr. Luyi Sun on his election as a member of CASE

Dr. Luyi Sun, Director of the IMS Polymer Program and Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, was inducted into the academy at its 44th Annual Meeting in May 2019

Election to CASE is made on the basis of scientific and engineering distinction achieved through significant contributions in theory or applications, as demonstrated by original published books and papers, patents, the pioneering of new and developing fields and innovative products, outstanding leadership of nationally recognized technical teams, and external professional awards in recognition of scientific and engineering excellence.

Dr. Sun’s publication credits include such distinguished journals as Scientific Reports, Nature Communications, Science, and Science Advances, as well as holding several patents related to his research. His work has been featured in articles at Smithsonian.com, R&D Magazine, and Plastics Technology among other publications. Dr. Sun also serves as advisor to the UConn student chapter of the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE).

IMS Director Dr. Steven L. Suib, also a CASE member elected in 2012, congratulated Dr. Sun on his membership and accomplishments at a celebration at IMS.