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Nine Outstanding Students Selected for 2023 ACS GCI Travel Awards

ACSGCI
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By Dr. David Laviska, Portfolio Manager for Green Chemistry and Sustainability in Education, ACS Green Chemistry Institute

It’s awards season at the ACS Green Chemistry Institute® (GCI) and we’re delighted that unprecedented numbers of students from undergraduates through post-doctoral scholars are seeking to share details of their research in green chemistry. As has been true for more than two decades, our awards recognize students for excellence in research and provide monetary support for travel so they can gain valuable experience presenting their green chemistry research at scientific meetings. Winners of each award or fellowship were chosen after careful deliberation by academic and industry experts who generously volunteered their time to serve on judging panels. All the winners below will present in person this year at the 27th Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference or the national meeting of the ACS in San Francisco.

2023 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.

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Molly Sun received her B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Chicago and is currently a chemistry graduate student working in conjunction with the Center for Sustainable Polymers at Northwestern University. The title of her award application is “Reprocessing Thermoset Polyurethane through Twin-Screw Extrusion and Green Catalysis”.

Thermoset polyurethane (PU) is produced industrially on the order of 10 million tons annually and has well-recognized end-of-life challenges, such as downcycling using mechanical recycling. Current state-of-the-art recycling technologies involve dibutyltin dilaurate (DBTDL) – an immunotoxic, teratogenic, and environmentally toxic additive. As alternatives, two greener zirconium-based catalysts have been identified to improve commercial viability and sustainability of this reprocessing method. Work on optimizing the use of these zirconium compounds, including addressing solvent use, is ongoing.

Sun will be presenting her latest research findings at the 27th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Long Beach, CA, June 13-15, 2023.

 

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Karthik Iyer completed his Bachelor of Pharmaceuticals Chemistry and Technology at the Institute of Chemical Technology in Mumbai, India, and is currently a chemistry graduate student at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The title of his award application is “Expanding the Toolbox of Green Chemistry in Method Development and Applications to Pharmaceuticals”.

Based on increasing global demand for therapeutic agents such as nirmatrelvir and ritonavir, work toward simplifying and greening synthetic protocols for preparation of these compounds is currently underway. Specifically, methods that decrease overall cost and environmental footprint could potentially expand the availability of these important drugs worldwide. Multiple synthetic strategies have been explored and preliminary results show promise for decreasing additives, reducing solvent use and number of intermediates, and switching to greener reaction media.

Iyer will be presenting his most recent research findings at the 27th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Long Beach, CA, June 13-15, 2023.

 

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.

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Thomas Freese completed his B.S. and M.S. in Chemistry at the Georg-August University of Göttingen and is currently working toward his Ph.D. at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. His research focuses on major challenges associated with green feedstocks and chemical transformations using bio-based materials, the use of light and molecular oxygen toward waste-free transformations, and the clean production of the oxidant hydrogen peroxide.

Throughout his education, Freese has built an impressive resume of experience with many fundamental aspects of green chemistry, including green building blocks/feedstocks such as lignocellulose, applications of polymers and coatings, photo-, homo- and heterogeneous catalysis, energy carriers, water oxidation, and redox chemistry. He is also politically active as a member of the green party of Germany where his responsibilities include educating the public, organizing elections, and actively taking part in discussions regarding cleaner energies and hydrogen and electric vehicles. Remarkably, he has pledged to offset the carbon emissions of his travel to the U.S. via atmosfair (https://www.atmosfair.de/en/).

Freese will be presenting his most recent research findings at the 27th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Long Beach, CA, June 13-15, 2023.

 

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Francisco Yarur Villanueva completed his B.S. and M.S. in Chemistry at Concordia University and is currently working toward his Ph.D. at the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada. His research focuses on the exploration of greener nanocrystalline systems which avoid the use of heavy metal elements such as lead and cadmium for applications in solar energy conversion.

Beginning in his undergraduate years, Yarur immersed himself in topics related to green chemistry and sustainability, such as the impact of commonly used water treatment polymers on the growth of plants, the development of greener sensors for environmental monitoring, and artificial photosynthesis. With a strong drive to tackle global environmental concerns through chemistry, he is currently the chairperson for the 2023 Symposium on Green Chemistry at the University of Toronto.

Yarur will be presenting his most recent research findings at the 27th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Long Beach, CA, June 13-15, 2023.

 

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 with a focus on Green Chemistry.

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Krystal Grieger is currently working toward her Ph.D. in chemistry with an emphasis on STEM education at North Dakota State University, where she previously completed her B.S. and M.S. degrees as well. Her thesis research is exclusively in the realm of chemistry education and focuses on the creation of tools for instructors and evaluation of both student and instructor experiences in the green chemistry sector.

Grieger’s current projects include the development and evaluation of open-ended prompts for assessing student knowledge of green chemistry and developing a case study using bio-derived monomers to teach about oxidation and reduction reactions in organic chemistry. Additionally, she plans to conduct faculty interviews as a follow-up study for the integration of green chemistry to evaluate instructor experiences with the integration of green chemistry into their curricula. Grieger has published multiple studies in journals highlighting green chemistry and its intersection with chemistry pedagogy.

Grieger will be presenting her most recent research findings at the 27th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Long Beach, CA, June 13-15, 2023.

 

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Madeline Karod is currently working toward her Ph.D. in biological and environmental engineering at Cornell University, where she also earned her M.S. degree. Previously, she earned her B.S. degree in chemistry at Simmons University. Her thesis research is focused on diverting agricultural and food waste from landfills and upcycling it to fuel or other valuable materials.

Karod’s current projects all begin with the same motivation: identify a local agro-industrial waste and use thermochemical conversion pathways to produce liquid and/or solid fuels. The pathway she uses for fuel conversion is hydrothermal carbonization, a conversion process that occurs at high temperatures in an aqueous environment; it uses green chemistry principles as it converts biomass to liquid fuel and a solid hydrochar at lower temperatures than pyrolysis, its dry counterpart.

Karod will be presenting her most recent research findings at the 27th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Long Beach, CA, June 13-15, 2023.

 

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Subeen Kim is currently working toward his Ph.D. in chemistry at Northwestern University. Previously, he earned his B.S. degree in chemical and biomolecular engineering at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. His thesis research is focused on the development of new technologies for recycling polyurethanes – one of the most common polymers in commercial use across the globe.

Polyurethanes are typically manufactured as foams to leverage their excellent thermal and sound insulation properties. Unfortunately, they cannot be recycled by conventional melt reprocessing due to their cross-linked chains and standard mechanical and/or chemical recycling technologies have many limitations. Kim is working on a novel “foam-to-foam” approach in which polyurethanes are converted from one physical form to another, dramatically reducing waste and the need for downcycling.

Kim will be presenting his most recent research findings at the 27th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Long Beach, CA, June 13-15, 2023.

 

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Michele Schmidt is currently working toward her Ph.D. in Fiber and Polymer Science at North Carolina State University. Previously, she earned her undergraduate and master degrees in textile engineering from the Federal University of Santa Catarina in Brazil. Her thesis research is focused on the investigation of natural dyes for their capability to be applied in waterless dyeing processes.

The textile industry ranks second among the most polluting industries in the world. Although there is ongoing research to find sustainable process alternatives and an appeal for a more conscious consumption of textiles by users, the textile industry still has much work ahead to change the environmental scenario to preserve nature and future generations. Schmidt’s research incorporates the principles of green chemistry, as it addresses aspects including preventing toxic effluents and reducing water and energy consumption in the textile dyeing process. Her research involves the use of natural dyes for waterless textile dyeing by adopting the scCO2 dyeing technique. In addition, her research will examine dye biosynthesis processes to obtain non-toxic dyes and optimize yield, dye absorption, and color resistance.

Schmidt will be presenting her most recent research findings at the 27th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Long Beach, CA, June 13-15, 2023.

 

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Catherine Schrader is currently working toward her Ph.D. in Green Chemistry at The University of Massachusetts, Boston. Previously, she earned her B.S. in chemistry with a concentration on environmental science at Bridgewater State University. Her thesis research is focused on the development of an earth-abundant photocatalyst to improve the current energy-demanding dry reforming of methane reaction.

Dry reforming of methane has been utilized to convert two greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), into syngas, which is used for green synthesis of fuels. While the process aims to reduce the amount of CO2 and CH4 in the environment, its endothermic nature results in re-emission of the same harmful gasses once the entire system is considered. It is therefore of interest to design a catalyst that would facilitate dry reforming of methane using renewable energy.

Schmidt will be presenting her most recent research findings at the Fall meeting of the ACS in San Francisco, CA, August 13-17, 2023.

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.