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.

Dr. Jaime A. Gómez (’89) Returns to UConn as 2023 Polymer Distinguished Alumni

Dr. Jaime A. Gómez (center) with Polymer Program Director Dr. Kelly Burke (left) and Dr. Luyi Sun (right)
2023 Polymer Program Distinguished Alumni Dr. Jaime A. Gómez (center) with Polymer Program Director Dr. Kelly Burke (left) and Dr. Luyi Sun (right)

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.

Polymer Program Director Dr. Kelly Burke (l) presents the Distinguished Alumni Award to Dr. Jaime A. Gómez
Polymer Program Director Dr. Kelly Burke (l) presents the Distinguished Alumni Award to Dr. Jaime A. Gómez

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. Jaime A. Gómez presents at the Polymer Program Distinguished Alumni Seminar
Dr. Jaime A. Gómez presents at the Polymer Program Distinguished Alumni Seminar

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 Program Alumnus Published in Royal Society of Chemistry

Ajinkya Deshmukh
Dr. Ajinkya Deshmukh

Ajinkya Deshmukh, IMS Polymer Program alumnus and graduate assistant in polymer science, is first author in a research paper recently published in Royal Society of Chemistry.

From the Abstract: Flexible polymers that can withstand temperature and electric field extremes are critical to advanced electrical and electronic systems. High thermal stability of polymers is generally achieved through the introduction of highly conjugated aromatic structures, that lower the bandgap and thus diminish the electric field endurance. Here, we demonstrate a class of flexible all-organic polyolefins by a strategic modular structure design to eliminate the impact of conjugation on bandgap. The one such designed polymer exhibits superior operational temperature and Tg of 244 °C without compromising the bandgap (∼5 eV), exhibiting significantly suppressed electrical conductivity when subjected to a high electric field. It reveals the highest ever recorded energy density of 6.5 J cc−1 at 200 °C, a 2× improvement over the best reported flexible dielectric polymers or polymer composites. The uncovered polymer design strategy introduces a platform for high performance dielectric development for extreme thermal and electric field conditions.

Read the full publication

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.

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.