Hancock, Breen and Ciba Student Award Winners Announced

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By Christiana Briddell, Sr. Communications Manager, ACS Green Chemistry Institute®

The next generation of researchers is inspired and motivated to weave sustainable design into both fundamental research approaches and applied chemistry and engineering processes. The ACS Green Chemistry Institute® (GCI) offers several awards to provide recognition for outstanding student research efforts and to provide travel support so that they can gain valuable experience presenting their green chemistry research at scientific meetings.

The seven students below—two undergraduate and five graduate level—are the recipients of the 2021–2022 Hancock, Breen, and Ciba Awards. The winners were selected by a panel of voluntary judges assembled by ACS GCI.

Kenneth G. Hancock Memorial Award

The Hancock Award provides national recognition for outstanding student contributions to furthering the goals of green chemistry through research and studies.

Raktim SenRaktim SenRaktim Sen is a chemistry graduate student at the Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute at the University of Southern California. Sen received his B.S. in Chemistry at St. Stephen’s College in Delhi, India, and his M.S. in Chemistry at the Indian Institute of Technology, also in Delhi. Sen’s research is titled, “Integrative CO2 Capture from Air and Catalytic Recycling to Methanol: Toward a Sustainable Methanol Economy”.

Capturing CO2 from ambient air to be utilized or recycled is an important area of research given carbon dioxide’s role as a greenhouse gas. At the same time, producing methanol from captured CO2 provides a path to the sustainable production of this commodity chemical, which is subsequently used in the production of many other commercial compounds. Early carbon capture research employed amines as the capturing agents, however, issues with amines include toxicity, volatility, and oxidative degradation over time. In his research, Sen explored an alternative method of carbon capture using alkali hydroxides coupled with hydrogenation of alkali carbonate and formate salts to methanol. Sen will be presenting his latest research findings at the 26th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Reston, VA, June 6-8, 2022.

Kenneth J. Trejos-CuadraKenneth J. Trejos-CuadraKenneth Josue Trejos-Cuadra is an undergraduate chemistry student with the Investigation Center in Natural Products (CIPRONA) at the University of Costa Rica. His research involves using mechanochemistry to synthesize and characterize 4-phenoxy and 4-alkoxy substituted 1,2-Naphthoquinones—molecules with potential application in materials and medicinal chemistry. Comparing synthetic techniques, Trejos-Cuadra found mechanochemistry required less solvent, provided a better selection of the desired product, and yields comparable to synthesis in aqueous solvents. Trejos-Cuadra plans to pursue his studies in greener synthesis methods with master’s research in Japan or Canada. He will present his findings at the 26th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Reston, VA, June 6-8, 2022.

Joseph Breen Memorial Fellowship

The Breen Fellowship supports the participation of a U.S. or international scholar in a green chemistry conference or training program of their choice.

Holly RudelHolly RudelHolly Rudel is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at Yale UniversityRudel’s research interest is inspired by her passion for solving water quality issues using green chemistry design principles. As an undergraduate student of Chemical Physics at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, Rudel interned for a non-profit advocating for support to remediate groundwater wells around Maine contaminated with arsenic. Realizing how pervasive this problem was, Rudel focused her senior research on emerging technologies to remove heavy metals in drinking water.

At Yale University, Rudel was exposed to the principles of green chemistry which she incorporated into her doctoral research designing and testing nanoscale iron-oxide impregnated biopolymers for their ability to remove toxic contaminants such as arsenic and selenium from water. Rudel’s work includes characterizing the particles using advanced analytical techniques. She will present this research at the 26th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Reston, VA.

Anthony Davis behind an Instron, used to test the strength of adhesives.Anthony Davis behind an Instron, used to test the strength of adhesives.Anthony Davis is an undergraduate student in the Department of Biochemistry at Idaho State University. Motivated by the call towards global sustainability and eager to explore greener approaches to chemistry, Davis joined Prof. Courtney Jenkin's research group focused on green polymer chemistry. Here he has helped investigate the development of adhesives using elemental sulfur (a waste product from refining crude oil) and natural monomers. In this process, the adhesives are synthesized using inverse vulcanization, a technique that does not release volatile organic solvents and has a high atom economy. Davis has also explored the use of garlic essential oil in place of elemental sulfur and made a comparison of the resulting polymer’s properties and performance.  

Davis will present his research at the ACS Spring 2022 meeting to be held March 20-24 in San Diego, California.

Ciba Travel Awards in Green Chemistry

The Ciba Travel Awards sponsor U.S. student travel to attend and participate in an ACS meeting, conference or training program.

Tharique Ahammad Ansari NalakathTharique Ahammad Ansari NalakathTharique Ahammad Ansari Nalakath is a doctoral student at the Department of Chemistry at the University of Louisville, Kentucky, where he works in Prof. Sachin Handa’s research group. Ansari’s research focuses on developing novel and sustainable catalytic reaction pathways by merging nanoparticle and micellar catalysis. Organic solvents are known to contribute the largest portion of waste in pharmaceutical processes. Recent advances in replacing solvents with water have shown promise, but many technical challenges must be addressed before this technology can be widely adopted. One technique that has seen success in enabling organic synthesis in water is called micellar catalysis. Ansari’s research furthers micellar catalysis with nanocatalysis to improve the selectivity and reaction parameters. Ansari plans to pursue a career in the pharmaceutical industry developing more sustainable synthetic methods employing micellar catalysis. He will share the results of his unpublished work on sustainable carboxylation of aromatics and heteroaromatics at the 26th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Reston, Virginia, June 6-8, 2022.

Edward  PimentelEdward PimentelEdward Pimentel is a doctoral student in organic chemistry at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Pimentel became interested in developing more sustainable synthetic methods as an undergraduate researcher working with low yields, toxic solvents, and harsh non-catalytic conditions. Going into graduate school, he knew he wanted to focus his research on the discovery of robust, greener catalytic methods. As the first student in a new research group under Prof. Jeffrey Martell, Pimentel has spent the last four years developing a high-throughput supramolecular catalyst discovery platform using techniques borrowed from molecular biology. This platform enables DNA- and water-compatible methods and high-throughput screening to identify nanostructures with high catalytic potential.

Pimentel’s research also explores the use of DNA nanoscaffolds to accelerate synergistic catalytic reactions in aqueous solution at room temperature and has submitted his research for publication. A highly motivated researcher and mentor to newer group members, Pimentel hopes to pursue a career training the next generation of organic chemists with the tools of sustainable synthesis. Pimentel will present his innovative research at ACS Spring 2022 in San Diego, California.

Boyi SongBoyi SongBoyi Song, is a doctoral student in Materials Science and Engineering at Wayne State University. Song’s research focus is environmentally friendly anti-fouling marine coatings. Growth on ship hulls, which creates energy-consuming drag through water, is usually controlled using coatings containing heavy metals toxic to marine life. In Song’s research, zwitterionic polymers, or hydrogels, are explored as an alternative coating with very low toxicity. Song is exploring green chemistry methods for creating and applying hydrogels coatings include aqueous-based reaction conditions, less toxic ingredients, low usage of volatile organic compounds, and limited side products. The long-term vision of this research is to develop a commercially viable anti-fouling product. Song will use the Ciba award to present his research at the 26th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference, June 6-8 in Reston, Virginia.

To learn more about these and other green chemistry student awards that the ACS Green Chemistry Institute® offers, please visit https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/funding/green-chemistry.html.