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Early Career Postdoctoral-Faculty Bridge Grantees Will Build Capacity in Green Chemistry Education

ACSGCI
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By ACS Green Chemistry Institute

We are thrilled to announce the first winners of this important new grant aimed at advancing sustainability innovations and building capacity for green chemistry education! Read about all six grant recipients.

By ACS Green Chemistry Institute

Awardees, clockwise from top left: Houqian Li, Jun Hee Jang, Bryan James, Neil Dolinski, Katherine Shulenberger, and Arthur ShihAwardees, clockwise from top left: Houqian Li, Jun Hee Jang, Bryan James, Neil Dolinski, Katherine Shulenberger, and Arthur Shih

Building a productive research group as a new faculty member in chemistry and engineering is highly challenging. Support for a faculty member in their first two years is critical to developing the foundation for a robust research program that attracts grant funding, provides holistic training and mentorship to graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and contributes to the culture of the department and the professional community.  

The ACS Early Career Postdoctoral (ECP) Faculty Bridge Grant supports the career of the faculty member and a postdoctoral fellow by covering the salary, benefits, and travel of the fellow for two years. To ensure meaningful mentorship for the postdoctoral fellow, the award requires that the new principal investigator participate in ACS-based training in mentorship.  

Winners are picked based on the innovative qualities of their research, its alignment with sustainability and the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, and its uniqueness. Strong applicants were also committed to teaching green chemistry and would take advantage of a teacher training workshop on how to incorporate green chemistry concepts into their classes. A unique feature of this grant is that it not only helps promote new sustainability research; it also builds capacity in green chemistry education, which has historically been a major barrier to the widespread adoption of green chemistry practices. 

The ECP Grant was launched last year as part of the ACS’s Campaign for a Sustainable Future, a strategic initiative of the ACS Board of Directors, administered by the ACS Office for Sustainability and the ACS Green Chemistry Institute. “We are thrilled to announce the first winners of this important new grant to spur research directed towards advancing sustainability innovations and building capacity for green chemistry education,” says Adelina Voutchkova-Kostal, ACS Director of Sustainable Development.   

Join us in congratulating the winners—and read on to discover the enthusiasm with which the grantees will bring green chemistry and engineering to their students!   

 

The 2023 ECP Faculty Bridge Grant Recipients 

Neil Dolinski, Assistant Professor at Columbia University 

About: Neil obtained his B.S. in materials science and engineering from Rutgers University, where he studied gold nanoparticle synthesis in the lab of Laura Fabris. After graduating, Neil joined the Materials Department at the University of California Santa Barbara in pursuit of his Ph.D. under the supervision of Craig Hawker. Before starting his new role as Assistant Professor at Columbia University, Neil worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Chicago under advisor Dr. Stuart Rowan.  

Project Title: Enhancing Plastic Waste Recycling with Reconfigurable Dynamic Polymers 

Plans to Address Sustainability as an Instructor:The scale of plastic production makes the classroom incorporation of sustainability principles paramount for our society's well-being and the future of our global environment. Recognizing the importance of sustainability, it is essential to cultivate a comprehensive understanding of polymer chemistry and its role in mitigating pressing ecological challenges. I will be teaching a course on "Polymer Chemistry for Sustainable Solutions" this Spring Semester at Columbia University…By merging introductory polymer chemistry with real-world applications in sustainability (with literature examples), this course will equip students with the knowledge and skills to tackle pressing environmental challenges.” 

 

Bryan James, Postdoctoral Researcher at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution 

About: Bryan James is a postdoctoral researcher working under advisor Dr. Christopher Reddy at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution jointly appointed in the Department of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry and the Department of Biology. In May 2021, he received his Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from the University of Florida and was an NIH predoctoral fellow. He received his B.A.Sc. in materials engineering from the University of Toronto.  

Project Title: The Rational Design of Nucleic Acids for Use as Multifunctional, Green Additives in Next-Generation Plastics   

Plans to Address Sustainability as an Instructor: “I aim to close [the] sustainability gap in materials education by expanding the discussion of green engineering in materials science and engineering coursework, particularly in materials selection and design courses. Additionally, I plan to create the upper-level elective course EcoPrecision Materials, which aims to prepare students to solve pressing challenges in sustainability and medicine, bringing together principles from environmental health and precision medicine to understand eco-compatibility and biocompatibility…My course materials will be distributed via ACS, Beyond Benign, TeachEngineering.com, and other organizations to ensure as wide a reach as possible.” 

  

Jun Hee Jang, Assistant Professor at Rowan University 

About: Jun Hee Jang is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Rowan University. He earned a B.S. in chemical engineering at Korea University (South Korea) and an M.S. in the same field at Seoul National University (South Korea). He received his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). Before his faculty appointment, he worked as a postdoctoral research associate at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) with his advisor Dr. Gregg T. Beckham.    

Project Title: Product Circulation Strategy for Enhanced Economics and Sustainability in Biorefineries of Waste Resources  

Plans to Address Sustainability as an Instructor: “At Rowan University, [Jun Hee Jang] will integrate sustainability perspectives into existing courses. In the “Chemical Reaction Engineering” course, for example, [he] will incorporate green chemical processes to address contemporary environmental challenges. Additionally, [he] envisions the development of a dedicated course, “Green Chemistry and Engineering,” designed to equip students with the fundamental knowledge for promoting sustainable practices and addressing environmental issues. Beyond the classroom, undergraduates will have the opportunity to engage in hands-on sustainability research, including catalytic biorefinery work proposed for this grant. This opportunity will be facilitated through Rowan Engineering’s Clinic course, specifically designed to provide practical and hands-on learning experiences in engineering. 

 

 

Houqian Li, Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison 

About: Houqian obtained his B.S. in chemistry from Nankai University in 2016. After graduating, he joined the Chemical Engineering Department at Washington State University in pursuit of his Ph.D. and worked as a Graduate Research Assistant under his advisor, Professor Yong Wang. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, working under Prof. George W. Huber, Houqian continued his career as a Postdoctoral Research Associate.  

Project Title: Tuning Chain Length of Alkenes in Plastic Oil with Catalytic Metathesis   

Plans to Address Sustainability as an Instructor:My teaching plan revolves around imparting knowledge and fostering a deep understanding of principles in green and sustainable chemistry, as well as chemical engineering. I firmly believe that synergizing research and teaching has the power to ignite curiosity among students, kindling a thirst for deeper exploration. I will design and teach courses that highlight the significance of environmentally- and energy-conscious practices, bridging fundamental knowledge with practical application…I would like to offer a new course, ‘Technologies for Plastic Recycling,’ which is inspired by my [research]. This course will comprehensively explore green chemistry principles, delve into plastic manufacturing, and investigate contemporary and future-oriented plastic recycling technologies, considering both their economic viability and environmental impact.” 

 

Arthur J. Shih, Postdoctoral Scholar at Northwestern University 

Project Title: Electrochemical Refinement of Recycled Iron via Selective Copper Dissolution   

About: Arthur Shih is a postdoctoral researcher at the Materials Science and Engineering Department at Northwestern University under Professor Sossina M. Haile. Previously he was a postdoctoral fellow at Universiteit Leiden under chemistry professor Marc T.M. Koper. Shih received his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Purdue University and his B.S.E. in chemical engineering at the University of Michigan.    

Plans to Address Sustainability as an Instructor:In laboratory and senior design courses, I will teach students the fundamentals of life cycle analysis and have them design their processes to minimize environmental impact…while maintaining profitability. The most important message I hope to pass on to my students is that for greener products to displace carbon-intensive products, the final cost must be equal to or cheaper, which can be driven by governmental policies and incentives. I would also love to develop and teach an elective on the history and future of the chemical industry. I plan to run it as a cooperative learning classroom where each student/group picks a chemical or process and discusses how its production method and capacity have changed over time due to economic and societal pressures…with an outlook towards a greener future.” 
 

Katherine Shulenberger, Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Brandeis University 

Project Title: Heavy Metal-Free Nanocrystals for Clean Energy Generation   

About: Before joining the faculty at Brandeis in July 2023, Katherine Shulenberger was a Postdoctoral Researcher under Prof. Gordana Dukovic at the University of Colorado Boulder. During the 2021-2022 academic year, her work was funded through the Cottrell Postdoctoral Fellowship. Katherine completed her doctoral work in the Bawendi and Tisdale groups at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in September 2019.   

Plans to Address Sustainability as an Instructor: “To engage my students, and show clear ties between the content they learn in class and their future careers, I bring real-world examples into my lectures…I have four ‘concept highlights’ planned throughout the semester: 1) The environmental impact of strip mining and how it relates to acid-base chemistry; 2) bulk semiconductors and their connection to renewable energy technologies 3) the impact of chloro-fluoro carbons (CFCs) on ozone when discussing the chemistry of gases and 4) solution reactions and the health impacts of nitrate contamination of drinking water. The intended impact of these activities is to enhance student understanding of fundamental chemical concepts through tying them to important challenges we face societally.” 

 

The next awardee could be you! Visit the ACS Funding and Awards webpage to search, find, and apply for upcoming opportunities.