faculty

Dr. Vahid Morovati to Join Polymer Program Faculty

Vahid Morovati
Dr. Vahid Morovati

Polymer Engineer, Dr. Vahid Morovati will join the University of Connecticut this fall with a joint appointment in both the IMS Polymer Program and the department of Civil & Environmental Engineering. Dr. Morovati completed his first Ph.D. in Civil Engineering at the Sharif University of Technology, Tehran, Iran. In 2020, he received a dual Ph.D. in Civil Engineering-Structural Engineering and Mechanical Engineering-Solid Mechanics from Michigan State University.

Vahid is currently a Postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Mechanics of Solids, Structures and Materials and the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at the University of Texas at Austin. His primary research interests lie in the multi-scale and micro-mechanical modeling of materials. As a part of his Ph.D. work, he developed a modular platform to study the nonlinear behavior of crosslinked elastomers. He is currently developing a computational framework to study the reliability of multi-layer thin films and the impacts of process-parameters on the mechanical properties of thin-film coatings. Vahid is also conducting research on the mechanics of multilayered van der Waals (vdW) materials to enhance their properties through strain engineering. He has published over 30 peer-reviewed journal papers and conference proceedings.

The Polymer Program faculty are excited to have Dr. Morovati as its newest member. His expertise in multi-scale modeling, the mechanical behavior of polymeric materials, and damage accumulation provides an excellent complement to the Program’s current faculty, and will expand the variety, scope, and value of the Polymer Program’s research.

IMS Faculty Members Named 2022 American Chemical Society PMSE Young Investigators

Kelly Burke-Sophie Wang
Drs. Kelly Burke (l) and Xueju “Sophie” Wang

Each year, the American Chemical Society’s Division of Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering (PMSE) honors young investigators through its PMSE Young Investigator Symposium which provides an opportunity to highlight the accomplishments of its honorees.  Honorees are chosen from early-career emerging leaders who have made significant contributions in their respective fields within polymer materials science and engineering. The invited honorees speak at a two-day “PMSE Young Investigator” symposium, held during the Fall National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.

IMS faculty members Kelly Burke and Xueju “Sophie” Wang have been named PMSE Young Investigator Honorees for 2022 and will speak at the two-day “PMSE Young Investigator” symposium, to be held during the Fall National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Kelly Burke joined the UConn faculty in 2014 as Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering with an appointment in the Institute of Materials Science.  She has been recognized for her accomplishments, including the National Institute of Health Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award and the prestigious NSF CAREER Award. She was appointed Director of the IMS Polymer Program in September 2021.

Sophie Wang joined the UConn faculty in 2020 as an Assistant Professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department with an appointment in the Institute of Materials Science.  She has consistently distinguished her research with numerous publications and as the recipient of the ASME Orr Early Career Award, and the NSF CAREER Award.  She is an associate faculty member of the IMS Polymer Program.

IMS congratulates both Kelly and Sophie on this accomplishment.

Dr. Kelly Burke Appointed Director of IMS Polymer Program

Dr. Kelly BurkeDr. Kelly Burke has been appointed Director of the IMS Polymer Program. She joined the UConn faculty in 2014 as Assistant Professor Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering with an appointment in the Institute of Materials Science. Since joining the faculty, she has received numerous grants and awards and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2021.

“Kelly brings a lot of new ideas, energy, and support for this program,” Dr. Steven Suib, Director of IMS, noted in announcing the appointment. She succeeds Dr. Luyi Sun in the position.

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.

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.

UConn, UMass Lowell, Georgia Tech to Collaborate with Industry on 3D Printing Research Supported by NSF

Multi-material micro-lattice polymeric structures fabricated using 3D printing
Multi-material micro-lattice polymeric structures fabricated using 3D printing

UConn, the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UMass Lowell), and Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) announced a collaboration to establish SHAP3D, a National Science Foundation (NSF) Industry-University Cooperative Research Center (IUCRC), to address emerging challenges of additive manufacturing, also commonly referred to as 3D printing.

IUCRCs bridge the gap between early academic research and commercial readiness, supporting use-inspired research leading to new knowledge, technological capabilities and downstream commercial applications of these technologies.

“This Center will address the grand challenges that prevent the entire 3D printing field from moving forward,” says Joey Mead, Distinguished University Professor and David and Frances Pernick Nanotechnology Professor in the Department of Plastics Engineering at UMass Lowell. Mead serves as the center director of the Center for Science of Heterogeneous Additive Printing of 3D Materials (SHAP3D).  Read the full UConn Today Story.

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.