Polymer Program

Polymer Program Announces 2021-2022 Awards

The IMS Polymer Program Awards committee has selected two awardees for the 2021 – 2022 academic year.

Chung Hao Polymer Program Award
Chung Hao Liu (center), winner of the Samuel J. Huang Graduate Student Research Award, with Polymer Program Director Kelly Burke (left) and advisor, Dr. Mu-Ping Nieh.

Chung-Hao Liu received the Samuel J. Huang Graduate Student Research Award.  This award recognizes a graduate student for outstanding research in the field of polymer science and engineering.  Chung-Hao completed is fourth year as a polymer PhD candidate under the guidance of Prof. Mu-Ping Nieh. He has been diligent in conducting advanced nanoscience research including materials characterization and designing polymer nanostructures. His efforts have resulted in two published journal articles, one currently in review, and contributions to many more. Chung-Hao has also made many collaborating efforts with other research groups and mentored undergraduate engineering students. Outside the lab, Chung-Hao has been an Society of Polymer Engineers, Storrs Chapter, committee member for 3 years, serving as both Vice President and President. His positive attitude and strong work ethics have made contributions to Prof. Nieh’s lab and the IMS research community.

Probodha Abeykoon Receives 2022 Polymer Program Award
Probodha Abeykoon (center), winner of the Stephanie H. Shaw Fellowship Scholar Award, with Polymer Program Director Kelly Burke and advisor, Dr. Douglas Adamson.

Probodha Abeykoon has been recognized as this year’s Stephanie H. Shaw Fellowship Scholar. This award is designated for a female student showing academic achievement and contributions outside of research.  Probodha has served as the leader of the Adamson Research Lab and has taken it upon herself to be the resident expert in several analytical techniques, such as four-point probe and thermal conductivity. She has two published papers and a third manuscript recently submitted. She has also presented her work at several ACS National Meetings. During the past 4 years Probodha has grown in into an excellent scientist and group leader.

The polymer program congratulates this year’s awardees with their tremendous efforts in both research and leadership in the IMS community.

2022 Polymer Poster Session

2022 Polymer Program Poster Session
IMS Polymer Program students display posters during 2022 Poster Session.

After two years of restrictions due to the COVID virus, the Polymer Program held its first in-person poster session since 2019. The event kicked off a 2-day open house for graduate student recruitment and also broke the long streak of virtual events.

Poster boards were dusted off and set up in the new Gant Complex Atrium, now called the “Light Court”, with a new collection of posters. Faculty and students expressed much gratification for the escape from the cyber world and return to the tradition of in-person discussions. Despite the masks, the smiles could be seen and the joy of the event could be felt by all.

A few faculty and students passing through the area felt the magnetic pull of the science talk and enthusiastically joined the fun. The event included 15 posters from polymer research laboratories, more than two dozen students, five visiting prospective students, and faculty from four departments. While the times change and technology evolves, it will be difficult to replace the glory of a traditional poster session.

2022 Polymer Program Poster Session
Students speaking with Polymer Program Director Kelly Burke during 2022 Poster Session.

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.

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

Polymer Program Student Selected for 100Plus Scholarship

Polymer Program Graduate Student John ToribioPolymer Program student, John M. Toribio was awarded this year’s Student Scholarship from 100Plus, a US based organization that provides remote patient monitoring for chronic patients. Student applicants needed to submit a presentation answering the question, “How will remote patient monitoring technology advance in the future to provide better health for the patients?” John received a $2,000 prize and his presentation can be found on the 100Plus Website at the following link:

https://www.100plus.com/blog/100plus-2021-student-scholarship-winner-john-miguel-toribio

John is a 2nd year Chemistry Ph.D. student in the Sotzing Research Group working on the development of wearable electronic devices for health applications as well as synthesis and applications of cannabinoid polymers.

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.

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.

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.

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.