PRF Doctoral New Investigator Grantee Stories

In celebration of PRF’s 65 years of awarding grants, recipients of PRF Grants were invited to share their PRF stories. Below are stories of Doctoral New Investigator grantees.

Christopher J. Bettinger, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA

I am grateful for receiving a PRF early investigator award as an assistant professor. It was one of the first grants that I received early on in my independent career. In addition to the monies that allowed our fledgling group to explore new research directions, receiving this award gave me more confidence to pursue high-risk high-reward projects.

Dr. Christopher J. Bettinger, Carnegie Mellon  University, Pittsburgh, PA

Michele Galizia University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK

It is a distinct honor to help celebrate the 65th anniversary of the ACS-PRF program. I had the great honor or receiving this award a year ago, and, no doubt, my research program benefited enormously from it. The ACS-PRF grant is providing financial support to Kelly Bye, on the most brilliant students I have ever met, and to his research in the area of Organic Solvent Nanofiltration (OSN). Support from ACS-PRF allowed us to publish a paper in the Journal of Membrane Science to demonstrate that flux non linearity in OSN is not caused by membrane compaction under pressure, as commonly speculated in the literature, but it has a purely thermodynamic origin. Moreover, we have developed a novel method to study the molecular mechanism by which OSN polymer membranes plasticize in the presence of solvents, which greatly helps design novel membrane materials with enhanced resistance to plasticization.  We are also excited to announce that a novel material for OSN and other kinds of separations has been developed in our laboratory, which will generate additional proposals to be submitted to federal agencies. Therefore, I want to acknowledge once again the ACS-PRF program for helping us making this happen.

Dr. Michele Galizia, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK

Mitchell Croatt, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

My ACS PRF grant was the first external grant that I obtained in my independent academic career. There is no doubt that this grant helped to springboard my career, and those of my researchers. The research accomplished from this grant led to an NSF CAREER grant, which greatly solidified my tenure package. Additionally, the project funded by the ACS PRF was the key project of my research group. Even though this was originally funded from 2012-2014, my group continues research related to this project.  More importantly, the researchers funded directly and indirectly from this grant were positioned for success in their futures. This is true from undergraduate researchers who are currently in graduate programs (or postdocs) to postdocs who are currently in academia. Their ability to competitively advance their career hinged on their research experiences of the ACS PRF grant and subsequent related projects. Thank you, ACS PRF!

Dr. Mitchell Croatt, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Chong Liu, University of California, Los Angeles

The PRF DNI grant is the first external grant that I received since I started my independent career. It offered critical support for the lab to start running, a wonderful channel to receive feedback from the community, and more importantly the confidence of being independent research in charge of a research group. On the day that I received the email notifying me of the PRF DNI award, I told my graduate student joyfully, "look, people are interested in our idea. They like it enough to give us money to work on it!". I am grateful for the support of PRF.

Dr. Chong Liu, University of California, Los Angeles

The ACS PRF has been instrumental at two points in my career. A PRF DNI award was the first grant I received as an assistant professor over a decade ago. Looking back, it laid the foundation of my research program in two ways - the thoughtful feedback of the reviewers improved our science and the funding allowed us to obtain preliminary results necessary for a major federal grant. In the past few years I was able to obtain a PRF ND award that has facilitated a completely new direction for my group. This would have been impossible without PRF support. I am thankful for the PRF and for the outsized impact of this small-sized program.

Dr. Daniel J. Weix, University of Wisconsin-Madison

A PRF "Research Innovation Award" was awarded to me in my second year as an assistant professor at MIT in 1999. Grant application to the NIH had failed and I paid for my key project, the automated synthesis of oligosaccharides, with the PRF money. A little over a year later, we published a paper in Science entitled “Automated Solid-Phase Synthesis of Oligosaccharides” that served as proof of principle and resulted in major funding, tenure at MIT and the creation of a new field of Molecular Glycobiology”. Many coworkers were trained in this program and 59 of them are now professors themselves. Their work in my laboratory eventually led to the creation of seven companies focusing on all aspects of drug discovery, related to vaccines, heart disease and diagnostics. The “Glyconeer” instruments that were a result of the methods we developed are now used all around the world. The PRF funding at a critical time in my career made all of this possible – Thank you!

Dr. Peter Seeberger, Managing Director, Max-Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces, Potsdam, Germany

Andrew Ferguson, University of Chicago

As a second-year assistant professor, I was delighted to win a 2014 PRF DNI award for my proposal "Mesoscale Simulation and Machine Learning of Asphaltene Aggregation". This award was instrumental in allowing me to support a graduate researcher, launch my independent career, and enable me to work in a new area. The grant led to four original research articles that unveiled new understanding of the molecular assembly behaviors of asphaltenes, established an excellent first-author publication record for my student that enabled him to secure a terrific post-doc position upon graduation, and contributed greatly to my own development as an independent investigator. The work we performed under this award continues to shape my research today as many of the techniques and tools we developed for mesoscale modeling of asphaltenes have proved to be very successful and highly transferable to modeling the self-assembly of other molecular systems such as pi-conjugated peptides and poly-peptoids. ACS PRF DNI grants are a valuable grant mechanism for new investigators and I am very grateful to ACS PRF for taking a chance and investing in me as a young faculty member.

Dr. Andrew Ferguson, University of Chicago

I am so grateful to ACS-PRF for awarding me my first grant as a young Asst. Professor almost 30 years ago! The fact that PRF specifically targeted younger researchers meant the world to me.  Also, the last 30 years have emphasized to me how almost uniquely successful ACS/PRF is in emphasizing the value of applied science and encouraging scientists to stick with it.  30 years later I'm semi-famous, a Senior Scientist at America's largest National Laboratory [Sandia] where I occasionally do enhanced oil recovery research.  My grant 30 years ago wasn't on oil, but the good feeling from the PRF persists after all this time.  Because of my 'exalted position' I am perpetually pestered for paper and proposal reviews from all sorts of places - which, um, being human I try to pawn off on others, delay, etc. But not the ones from ACS-PRF, which I do immediately. It's a call from long ago that commands respect. Lord knows I'm not the only researcher who has a special spot in their heart for ACS-PRF.  Yours is such a special organization that has no peers in my book.  Hat's off to ACS-PRF and Best Wishes for another 65 years!

Dr. Patrick V. Brady, Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, NM

Sujit S. Datta, Princeton University, NJ

As a new Assistant Professor, being awarded a PRF grant has played a pivotal role in the development of my research program. I was able to take my research in a completely new direction, studying the flow of polymer solutions in porous media. A little over a year in, we have already been able to make unexpected discoveries of how flow instabilities arise in polymer solution flow, and how the spatio-temporal dynamics of these instabilities depend on the geometry of the pore space. This work has resulted in papers published in Journal of Fluid Mechanics and Small, and another paper in preparation. More broadly, this work sets the foundation for years of future work in my lab.

Dr. Sujit S. Datta, Princeton University, NJ

Adam T. Woolley, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT

I started as an independent faculty member in 2000, and my first funded grant was through the Petroleum Research Fund, an ACS PRF-G proposal I submitted my first year as an assistant professor. The amount of funding was small—hardly enough to support one graduate student for one year in today’s dollars. However, that tiny seed of support gave me confidence and credibility, which combined with the preliminary results the grant enabled, positioned me to obtain significant, additional funding from a variety of sources in the intervening years. Fast forward nearly two decades, and that small seed has matured into a large tree: I have mentored close to one hundred graduate and undergraduate students, and I have obtained research funding amounts that are already multiple orders of magnitude larger than that initial ACS PRF-G grant. I’m grateful for the boost my career received from that first grant funded from the Petroleum Research Fund, and I hope that the next 65 years will continue to provide many success stories like mine.

Dr. Adam T. Woolley, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT

The PRF DNI award was the first external grant I received as an Assistant Professor. It have me the freedom to pursue a new direction in my lab that I would not have otherwise pursued. Over the years I have had two PhD students work on the science that has stemmed from the award. The first student is now a research scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the second is a fourth year graduate student that plans to defend in 2021. Our PRF research has catalyzed a number of new research threads in my lab related to CO2 conversion and related hydrogenation chemistries, which our now federally funded. I can't wait to see what the future holds for this science and am grateful for the PRF's early support of my lab.

Dr. Brandi Cossairt, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

I really would like to thank PRF for the grant entitled `Chemical Understanding of Complex Semiconductor Alloys,'' which ran from 09/01/99 to 08/31/01 (when I was starting as an Assistant Professor). It allows our group to continue working on semiconductors (in addition to ferroelectrics) and to predict new structures with interesting properties that were then experimentally verified. It also likely had a positive impact for my tenure promotion in 2003.

Dr. Laurent Bellaiche, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR

ACS PRF DNI grant allowed me to pursue a dream to make solid state synthesis as predictable and controllable as organic synthesis is. This requires controlled formation of chemical bonds in the complex  solid state compounds. We have chosen challenging B-P covalent bonds as the first target. To avoid formation of thermodynamic sink, binary BP phase, we have developed a novel chimie douce synthetic method and form first compound with 1D polymeric B-P polyanions. This work inspired us to start a large effort on the predictable synthesis of solids.

Dr. Kirill Kovnir, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, and US DOE Ames Laboratory

The PRF was my first grand and helped launch my career at Rice University by giving me the confidence and funds to expand my research activities. Now at the University of Cambridge, I continue being engaged with ACS-PRF and warmly recommend that my junior colleagues in the USA apply.

Dr. Emilie Ringe, University of Cambridge, UK

The ACS PRF was a truly enabling award. The PRF award enabled the group to develop a new type of dynamic chemistry, and apply it to complex polymer systems. The award helped establish the group in the field of materials, especially dynamic materials, which was a new area for the PI and the group. Leveraging the PRF award, over 10 papers ranging from mechanisms of dynamic exchange to polymer materials with responsive and adaptable characteristics.  By focusing on fundamental research, the group was able to develop new and enabling chemistries that were applied to complex polymers. This award helped establish the lab as a major player in mechanism driven materials design, and dynamic materials. Additionally, the award supported graduate and undergraduate students to gain experience and skills in chemistry and materials science. This training has enabled undergraduate students to pursue advanced graduate programs, and graduate students to be awarded postdoctoral fellowships.  Overall, the PRF is a unique grant, in that it is the perfect mechanism to enable a new investigator to explore a topic in fundamental science. The results of the award can then be leveraged to advance their career with other funding agencies and turned into high impact papers.

Dr. Dominik Konkolewicz, Miami University, Oxford, OH

The ACS PRF DNI grant was one of the very first funding for Dr. Subith Vasu’s (PI) group at University of Central Florida, which is one of the largest and minority-serving institutions in the U.S. It has had very significant impact on the PI and both graduate and undergraduate students. The PI was able to recruit and train students for research, as well as publish several journal and conference articles based on this funding. These publications provided professional recognition for the PI while establishing his career. The grant partially supported 3 graduate students and introduced two undergraduate students to research (some of them continued for graduate studies with the PI). Also, the broader impact of the grant was that it helped several underrepresented students to pursue education and research. A female PhD graduate obtained faculty job while one of the underrepresented M.S. students joined as an engineer at the Air Force Research Laboratory. Infact, one of the undergraduate students published a paper in the prestigious Combustion and Flame journal.

Dr. Subith Vasu, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL

PRF has been a tremendous help for me as a first-year assistant professor! It allows me to hire my first postdoc, obtain key preliminary results for my NSF application. More importantly, it helped me build confidence as an assistant professor!

Dr. Shiyu Zhang, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH

My ACS PRF grant supported research on combining discrete event simulation with optimization in the context of pipeless batch plants.  The “pipeless” concept has not spread as widely as I would have hoped in manufacturing, but, with recent advances in robotics, the concept is bearing new fruit in the context of microchemical and laboratory experimental systems.  It did allow me to pursue an early collaboration with researchers both in England and in Japan and contributed to a lifelong friendship with Professor Shinji Hasebe at Kyoto University.  However, the idea of combining simulation and optimization using the simulation to generate constraints in a higher level optimization problem is one that has stayed with me over the past 27 years of my career and which I have employed across many different problem domains in chemical engineering design and operation.  I am grateful for the opportunity provided by the ACS PRF to explore this area of research and to forge life long collaborations and friendships with international colleagues.

Dr. Matthew J. Realff, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA

Close to the end of my graduate degree, I decided to seek a postdoctoral position in a new field.  This was harder than I thought because many professors preferred people experience.  The PRF was offering the Alternative Energy Fellowship which I applied for and received.  This award helped me gain valuable experience and broaden my horizons far beyond what had been available at the time.  As a new assistant professor, i similarly sought to take a new direction that again presented many obstacles.  My proposals were constantly being rejected so I tried for the PRF DNI award that would help fund a student and demonstrate proof-of-concept.  I got the award and started publishing high impact papers resulting in a continuous funding stream for over 13 years.  Support from the PRF did not only come at a time when I most needed it but it also catalyzed new and transformative research.  I am permanently indebted to the PRF for their support and fostering new research, which has benefitted my students greatly over the years.   

Dr. John Grey, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM

Saman Aryana, University of Wyoming, Cheyenne, WY

Over the years, I have received a numbers of relatively small and large grants from local and federal funding agencies. Although all of them have been important in enabling my research, learning and education aspirations, none have been as crucial as the ACS-PRF award (55795-DNI9) to my career development. The flexibility of the funds had a significant impact on my ability to use the resources strategically. I used my ACS-PRF grant as a seed fund to pursue two complementary and related lines of inquiry: 1) a microfluidics laboratory and physical experimentation platform, and 2) a mathematical modeling and numerical simulation counterpart that leveraged the observations in the lab to develop and motivate mathematical models related to flow dynamics in permeable media. This work resulted in five peer-reviewed journal papers. I am grateful to the American Chemical Society and its Petroleum Research Fund for their support – it made a world of difference.

Dr. Saman Aryana, University of Wyoming, Cheyenne, WY

Bhuvnesh Bharti, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA

ACS-PRF DNI has given me a platform for achieving my research vision by providing crucial financial support at the beginning of my scientific career. When I started as an independent faculty, one of my senior peers in the field told me “ACS-PRF DNI was my first independent grant, so is the case for many young faculty”. This statement turned out to be true not only in my case, but for several faculty members starting up their careers in chemical science. In my DNI grant, I proposed to study the assembly of surfactant molecules in porous materials and its potential impact on oil recovery. The funded proposal enabled me to get started, perform initial studies, and most importantly, critically think and comprehend open scientific challenges in the field of adsorption and transport through porous media. Following this DNI, I was fortunate to receive NSF-CAREER award which looks beyond the adsorption into ways of efficient transport of colloids through porous media. The DNI award has been a major pillar in initiating my research career. I hope that ACS continues to invest in our scientific community and help young researchers like myself build their careers and have a long-lasting impact on society.

Dr. Bhuvnesh Bharti, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA

Andrea G. Grottoli, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH

My first real grant was from PRF. It made all the difference in setting my path for academic success. My first PhD student's fieldwork was entirely supported on this grant. I also had an undergraduate student accompany my grad student for extended fieldwork. In total, 6 papers were published from the samples collected from that fieldwork and two more papers were published with collaborators who later conducted new analyses on our archive coral and water samples.

Dr. Andrea G. Grottoli, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH

My first external grant as a new faculty was the PRF early career award (predecessor to DNI). This itself made it special. It allowed me to partially fund a postdoc, which jump-started my academic career. I proposed two research threads in the grant, and I ended up pursuing one of them for nearly a decade after the grant.

Dr. Sachin Shanbhag, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL

Jacqueline Reber, Iowa State University, Ames, IA

The PRF DNI grant supporting research on the effect of a liquid phase in a granular system on force distribution during deformation had and still has a tremendous impact on my research, student support and advising, and diversification of my laboratory. Trough this grant we were able to develop a new series of experiments where we use techniques that are not commonly used in the field of geology. The grant supported a graduate student who has defended his master’s thesis last month and it will continue supporting an incoming graduate student as well as two undergraduates at Iowa State University. Thank you PRF for making this all possible!

Dr. Jacqueline Reber, Iowa State University, Ames, IA

The ACS Petroleum Research Fund Grant was an essential stepping stone for my research group in helping us bridge the gap between startup funds and major external funding. With the help of funding for student salaries from the PRF grant, we were able to publish our first two papers on a project in bimetallic catalysis in Organic Letters and the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS). These critical publications later led to a successful funding application to the NSF division of chemistry. In addition, the PRF grant provided students with support at a critical time in their PhD studies that allowed them to focus on their research without distractions. This allowed one student (Whitney K. Walker) to engage with her project at a higher level, get involved with a collaboration in computational chemistry, and publish a higher impact paper in JACS. These successes led her to being selected to attend the  DOC Graduate Research Symposium at the end of her 4th year at BYU. I am confident that seed funds for new faculty, as we received from our PRF DNI grant, make a significant impact in the early careers of researchers in chemistry across the country.

Dr. David J. Michaelis, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT

Dr. Siddharth Misra, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX

The ACS PRF grant provided me resources to investigate computational methods to quantify the connectivity of material constituents, as captured in high-resolution microscopy images. Connectivity of constituent governs the transport of mass, momentum, and energy through materials. Supported by the PRF Grant, we have developed three statistical formulations that can reliably and consistently quantify the connectivity of fluid phases in porous materials. Supported by this grant, we generated preliminary findings that led to the Department of Energy Early Career Award in 2018 to pursue data-driven approaches to characterize fracturing process in materials. The PRF Grant has been supporting two students, and provides an opportunity for them to become skilled in statistical analysis of images. The ACS award has helped me raise funding from two oil and gas companies for generating data-driven insights from CT Scan images. The research findings emerging from this grant has contributed towards my selection for the SPWLA Young Professional Technical Award and the SEG J. Clarence Karcher Award in 2020. ACS award was my first successful  proposal that helped me transform from a young investigator to an independent researcher in the area of petroleum engineering and geosciences.

Dr. Siddharth Misra, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX

The American Chemical Society’s Petroleum Research Fund (PRF) was one of the first to sponsor the recently established Page Group at the University of Texas at Austin. The Doctoral New Investigator grants program will support research in the development of novel petroleum derived liquid mixtures that will rapidly harden upon contact with light. Although tenure of the award has not yet begun (starting fall 2020), it has already imparted a profound impact on the mentality and potential for future success of the group by providing a sense of belonging in the scientific community and a level of confidence that has motivated diligence and teamwork. Specifically, the group looks forward to unveiling 1) new methods to enable spatiotemporal control over the formation of designer plastics from commodity chemicals, 2) fundamental knowledge surrounding structure-property relationships of photocurable resins, and 3) increased accessibility of well-defined materials for implementation into transformative light-based applications, such as coatings, adhesives, and 3D printing.

Dr. Zachariah A. Page, University of Texas at Austin

An undergraduate entirely supported by this grant published a first author paper studying the effect of proton permeable membranes on carbon-supported carbon dioxide reduction catalysts and is now in graduate school in a chemistry-related field. Two graduate students and a post-doctoral scholar also are working on this project. The grant has been instrumental in propelling my independent career as a young scientist in two important ways. First, it has provided me with the budgetary freedom to hire a post-doctoral scholar early in my career, thus increasing my scientific productivity. Second, the projects supported have resulted in important preliminary and published findings that have allowed me to apply for larger grants from federal institutions.  

Dr. Christopher J. Barile, University of Nevada, Reno

Predicted structure of monolayer boron hydride B2H2.

I am extremely grateful for the support from the Petroleum Research Fund. The seed grant provided the much needed initial fund for me to start my research career at SUNY Buffalo. The results from this project also helped me secure an NSF-CBET award and an NSF-CAREER award. Looking backward, I can say that my research career would be very different now had I not received the support from PRF. I am also very happy to report that the material we predicted 10 years ago under the support of the PRF grant, a monolayer boron hydride B2H2 [1,2],  has just recently been successfully synthesized. It is rather exciting that our work has finally made some impact after nearly 10 years!  (Figure)  Predicted structure of monolayer boron hydride B2H2. 

[1] T. A. Abtew, B.-C. Shih, P. Dev, V. H. Crespi, and P. Zhang, Prediction of a Multi-center Bonded Solid Boron Hydride for Hydrogen Storage, Phys. Rev. B 83, 094108 (2011).
[2] T. A. Abtew and P. Zhang, Charging assisted Hydrogen Release Mechanism in Layered Boron Hydride, Phys. Rev. B 84, 094303 (2011).

Dr. Peihong Zhang, University at Buffalo, State University of New York

This PRF grant is a critical support for my early career as a tenure-track assistant professor, and assists me to be promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 2020.  It has helped me establish my research lab at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, work in a cutting-edge research area, and build the collaboration with laser experts. Through this project, my team has demonstrated that a novel laser shock peening process could improve the resistance of austenitic alloys to stress corrosion cracking in chloride environments in the petrochemical industry, and reveal the fundamental mechanisms of this effect. This project has trained a graduate student and a postdoctoral fellow in my group, who have published four papers with me from this project. I have become the Chair of the Corrosion and Environmental Effects Committee in the Minerals, Metals, and Materials Society, and an organizer of the “Environmentally Assisted Cracking” symposium in TMS annual meetings since 2017.

Dr. Bai Cui, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

In 1998, I was awarded a PRF grant. I had just started an assistant-professor position in the department of Mechanical Engineering at Louisiana State University the previous year. The PRF grant was one of the first research grants that I had applied. The money was not much; it barely allowed me to hire a student. However, the significance was not the amount of money, but the affirmation of my research ideas. I proposed to study the instability of a retracting solid thin-film edge. That was my idea, and people liked it and awarded funding for me to transform my idea into reality. For a beginning researcher, the grant provided immense boost of self-confidence. Later, the proposed project was completed successfully, and the results published [1]. The preliminary research provided data for a more elaborate NSF CAREER proposal, which was awarded in 2000, and the rest is history.

[1] Kan, W. and H. Wong "Fingering instability of a retracting solid film edge," J. Applied Phys. 97, 043515 (2005).

Dr. Harris Wong, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA

The $25,000 award I received from PRF a year into my independent career did everything it was supposed to do: it helped to get critical early results that laid the foundation for new projects and larger grant applications down the road.  It also gave me early, critical feedback on my ideas. The specific project of that PRF award is no longer active in my lab, but I can still trace the intellectual path of much of what we do back to that early PRF-funded activity.  I remain a committed supporter of the PRF and its mission, and I am happy to make the time to review for it when asked.

Dr. Stephen Craig, Duke University, Durham, NC

I have started my independent career in 2001 and my research area is carbohydrate chemistry. With participation of more than 135 co-workers to date, my laboratory Glycoworld has developed a few innovative tools for the synthesis and application of carbohydrates. Among these, the development of the thioimidate method for chemical glycosylation supported by the PRF in 2004 laid the groundwork for developing effective methods for synthesizing and testing carbohydrates. This was my first external grant that was truly essential for building my confidence, expertise, and leadership as the PI as well as gaining motivation necessary to supervise a successful research team. Thanks to PRF, who were the first to believe in the potential of our methodology, I trained a very productive, and highly motivated research team that successfully completed the proposed projects as well as faced and successfully solved new challenges. With the PRF support, by lab members published five quality research articles and have given more than 50 lectures and posters in the US and abroad. This elevated our ability to successfully compete for external funding.

Dr. Alexei Demchenko, University of Missouri-St. Louis

Louis Piper, Binghamton University, State University of New York

The ACS PRF DNI was my first grant as a newly minted Assistant Professor and played a critical role in my career ever since.  I still remember getting the email notification while my colleague was in my office; she jumped higher than I did!  I can trace almost all of my subsequent research projects back to my ACS PRF.  My grant focused on vanadium oxides for alkali intercalation and led my to expand my research skills and grow my research group.  It forced me to explore new topics and techniques and develop new collaborations.  I was extremely fortunate that my grant enabled me to collaborate with Nobel Laureate Prof. M Stanley Whittingham on lithium ion batteries.  The ACS PRF grant is something I recommend to all new faculty.  The "no indirect costs" requirement is extremely valuable for new faculty navigating research expenditures for the first time.  The PRF grant went a long long way... it supported my first three PhD students in various forms including salary, travel to new facilities and new equipment.  The PiperLab group are extremely grateful for the ACS PRF and congratulate all past and future recipients!

Dr. Louis Piper, Binghamton University, State University of New York

Dr. Pavel Nagorny, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Receiving an ACS PRF New Investigator award has made a significant impact on my career as a tenure-track assistant professor. Not only it provided me with an opportunity to pursue some new ideas, which eventually developed into new research direction in my group, but also helped to refine and improve these ideas through the peer review process. ACS PRF is unique in supporting early stage projects without significant preliminary results, and I hope that this mechanism will continue to be available for the new generations of emerging investigators.

Dr. Pavel Nagorny, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

My first ever research grant was an ACS-PRF award on the topic of supramolecular binary blends.  The grant supported two of my first doctoral students, Michelle Wrue and Jaihui Li, who were there from the beginning and helped set up my lab.  I recall the excitement of conducting our first polymerizations and making blends to test some of our predictive models.  Michelle synthesized novel telechelic polymers and studied how end-groups affected polymer miscibility, and Jaihui laid the groundwork for our future research as we entered the field of shape-memory polymers.  In addition to funding, the ACS-PRF program provided me a high quality forum for peer review and professional networking.

Dr. Mitchell Anthamatten, University of Rochester, NY

I received an ACS PRF DNI grant which began in the summer of 2017, and this was the first externally funded grant that my group received.  This PRF grant was instrumental in allowing my research group to establish our efforts in understanding the electronic properties of pi-conjugated polymer based thermoelectric materials.  As a result of this grant, we were able to outline fundamental guidelines for improving the thermoelectric performance of pi-conjugated polymer blends, investigate the role of energy filtering in determining the thermoelectric properties of polymer-nanowire blends, and discover how dopant size affects the thermoelectric properties in doped polymers.  Funding of this research resulted in five publications to date, with one more in review, nine conference presentations, and provided the foundation for an NSF grant that was funded in the summer of 2019.  We will continue to build upon these research efforts for many  years to come thanks to the foundational research that we were able to carry out as a result of this ACS PRF DNI grant.

Dr. Kenneth R. Graham, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY

Johan Schijf, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Solomons, MD

I received a Doctoral New Investigator award in my second year as an Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, after resubmitting an initially unsuccessful proposal. With further aid from an institutional fellowship, it funded the M.Sc. research of my student Kathleen Marshall, who later became an environmental analyst at CSC Science and Engineering. For her project, Kathleen studied  rare earth element (REE) sorption on hydrated ferromanganese oxides, with special emphasis on the redox chemistry of cerium. This formed part of my broader investigations into the use of REEs as proxies for ferromanganese oxides, algal debris, and other carrier phases within the vertical flux of particulate matter in marine anoxic basins. The results have contributed to several peer-reviewed publications and more are planned as we continue to draw conclusions from her excellent data. The prestige of getting the award, Kathleen's graduation, and the papers certainly helped me gain tenure. While I have not yet earned a New Directions award, I will keep applying since PRF remains among the few agencies still offering grants for fundamental science that are large enough to support both graduate students and their advisors.

Dr. Johan Schijf, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Solomons, MD

The ACS-PRF grant was the first and essential seed grant in my academic career, which I truly appreciated. The project supported by the ACS-PRF has resulted in one patent and 8 peer review articles published in reputable journals, such as Journal of Materials Chemistry A, ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, and Environmental Science & Technology. The data generated from the project has been an important foundation to help the PI to secure several other major grants from National Science Foundation, the Virginia state, and several user proposals from national laboratories. All these efforts eventually helped the PI to get tenured and promoted to Associate Professor this year.  In the meantime, the project has trained my first Ph.D. student, who has been extremely productive in research. Due to his excellent academic achievements, he was selected as the winner for several awards, including the 2018 Outstanding Graduate Research Assistant Award from the VCU College of Engineering and the prestigious 2018 Chinese Government Award for Outstanding Self-Financed Students Abroad, which is the highest award presented by the Chinese Scholarship Council to Chinese students who study abroad without government support.

Dr. Wei-Ning Wang, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA

As a new faculty member, and current grantee of the program, the ACS Doctoral New Investigator Grant has made a tremendous impact on my research and my group. The PRF New Investigator Grant helped me in three ways: 1) to explore new areas, 2) to expand my group, and 3) experience and confidence building. The PRF program emphasizes new areas. So many other funding programs require long histories working in a particular area, but the PRF allowed me to expand my portfolio and develop novel competencies that I would not have been able to afford otherwise. Critically, PRF allowed me to hire an additional PhD student. This benefit is beyond the underlying exploration of new scientific findings. In the infancy of my research group, going from 2 students to 3 helped start a group culture and provided the critical peer-to-peer network that helps student solve problems, not just for the added student, but for all group members and projects. Lastly, receiving the PRF DNI has provided me with a sense of confidence that I could successfully win grants as this was my first grant as  a PI. I would like to thank the ACS PRF for this amazing opportunity.

Dr. Christopher Muhich, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

Michael Gonsior, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Cambridge, MD

The ACS-PRF award I received was my first funding during my tenure-track assistant professor time and enabled me to delve into sediment biogeochemistry and the complex world of organic matter early diagenesis. The undertaken study by my first student resulted in the discovery of fluorophores directly related to sulfate reduction, which was published in Scientific Reports. Even years after this initial study ended, we are still publishing in this field. The PRF grant certainly enabled me to branch out into a different field and intrigued my interest in better understanding the hydrosulfurization of organic matter in sediments and to decipher the complex reaction pathways. I am now a tenured associate professor and the PRF grant certainly helped me to get tenured. I hope this effort to support early career scientists will continue to enable the next generation of scientists to diversify their research.

Dr. Michael Gonsior, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Cambridge, MD

The Kavanagh Lab: A grant from the Petroleum Research Fund was one of the first external grants that I received as a new professor at the University of California San Diego (1989). This helped initiate a research program focussed on interdiffusion at semiconductor interfaces, financially supported my first graduate students, and was critical towards winning ongoing support from state and federal agencies. At least two publications acknowledged the Petroleum Research Fund: [1] Materials Research Society Symposium Proceedings 240 (1992) 581-584,  "Oxidation and diffusion at poly-SiGe/GaAs interfaces", and [2] Applied Physics Letters 60 (1992) 1235, "Oxidation induced AlAs/GaAs superlattice disordering". Authors:  J. C. P. Chang, F. Cardone, D. K. Sadana and K. L. Kavanagh. My lab moved in 2000 to Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada: - where I have  continued to study semiconductor interfaces of all varieties. Thank you PRF!

Dr. Karen Kavanagh, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada

The PRF DNI grant was the first grant I won during my tenure-track. And I can honestly say that its support was what allowed me to launch my career. Under the auspices of the PRF, I conducted and published my seminal studies, graduated my first two PhD students, as well as supported several undergraduate and high school students. Particularly, one high school student presented their work at the Intel Science Fair and gain an honorable mention from NASA. I was then able to advance my studies to new function coatings, which lead to two journal covers, and further funding from other agencies.  I recently gained tenure at my University, and look forward to a long-term career conducting research, and I'm so thankful to the PRF for setting it all in motion. Photo: Jenkins research group at National ACS Meeting Spring 2019

Dr. Ian Hosein, Syracuse University, NY

Justin G. Kennemur, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL

In 2015, the ACS PRF Doctoral New Investigator Grant was the first independent grant that I received in my tenure-track position as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Florida State University. It was a monumental moment to receive my first grant and really set a tone of confidence for me in my future career. Not only did this grant jump start a research project based on new block copolymer thin film assemblies, but it also assisted one of my first Ph.D. students who is also moving to an educational position in higher education. Since that time I have taken the opportunities supplied by this grant to achieve an NSF CAREER Award and multiple recognitions within my field. To pay my gratitude forward, I have also peer reviewed 7 grants for the ACS PRF and will gladly do so in years to come. In early 2020, I was officially granted tenure at FSU. I want to thank the ACS PRF for supporting young faculty and allowing established faculty to jump-start new directions in research. Something I hope to take advantage of in the future.

Dr. Justin G. Kennemur, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL

This ACS-PRF grant has allowed us to complete the synthesis and testing of various metal nanoparticle catalysts prepared by atomic layer deposition. The findings and experiences resulting from this funding helped us develop worthwhile projects that have expanded the scope and significance of the initial project supported by ACS-PRF. For example, a catalyst for dry reforming of methane reaction has been one of the focuses in our lab. Although we deviated a litter bit from the original proposed research, the end results were more important than the originals would have ever been. Eight peer-reviewed journal papers were published based on this project. Two PhD students, partially supported by this grant, were graduated. Also, these efforts have enabled the career development of the PI. We are very grateful to the ACS-PRF for this support.

Dr. Xinhua Liang, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Rolla, MO

Daniel Sturmer, University of Cincinnati, OH

I am grateful to the American Chemical Society – Petroleum Research Fund program for funding my research into large-scale landslides in the Basin and Range province. This is a new line of research for me resulting in formation of several new collaborations, both within my department and at other universities, state agencies, and in industry. The grant has funded two graduate students (Nick Ferry and Adam Jones). Nick has worked with Dylan Ward to develop a new module for modeling the evolution of rangefronts that experience large-scale landslides and he has completed a detailed analysis of the Blue Diamond landslide near Las Vegas, NV. We have also been cataloging all known large-scale landslides in Nevada (with Rachel Micander, Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology), evaluating the use of the passive-source Refraction Microtremor seismic method to identify large-scale landslide deposits in the subsurface (with John Louie, University of Nevada, Reno and Aasha Pancha, Aurecon), and developing techniques for evaluating rangefronts in ArcGIS (with Chris Sheehan, University of Cincinnati). The research will lead to new methods for identifying buried large-scale landslide deposits which can and do act as hydrocarbon reservoirs.

Dr. Daniel Sturmer, University of Cincinnati, OH

After five years postdoctoral research I became independent with a faculty position at a university. With all previously gained experience I had many exciting ideas that I wanted to put into practice quickly and to establish my future research directions. Setting up a new lab and research group has always been fun but not an easy task. Most of my startup fund was spent to purchase essential equipment. When the expensive analytical instruments were finally setup to run and successfully generated the first dataset, I found myself fell into an awkward situation that many junior researchers would experience. It was like that a chef had got a fancy kitchen and recipes in hand, but nothing left in the refrigerator to cook. The PRF-NDI fund has been encouraging and a timely support to my academic career and allowed me to pursue the next level. PRF gets its reputation in the field of geochemistry for its countless support to many young scientists like me. I believe the PRF program will continuously play a key role in the society to promote and advance geochemical research.

Dr. Xiaolei Liu, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK

In 2014 the ACS PRF was the first grant I applied for and the first I was awarded, and in the time since then I have gained a stronger appreciation for how valuable it was for my early career. I used the PRF grant in part to support a postdoc I had hired, who was instrumental in helping my group get off to a fast start. I had an experienced researcher who could quickly try out a bunch of project ideas, and who could provide the brunt of the training for the first-year graduate students in my group, freeing me up to do (and learn how to do) the other parts of my job as an Assistant Professor. To be honest the chemistry I proposed for that PRF grant completely flamed out and went nowhere, but I appreciated the flexibility of the PRF program in allowing me to use the money as I best saw fit, and revise project goals when it became clear the original proposal was a nonstarter.

Dr. Thomas S. Teets, University of Houston, TX

Fernando V. Lima, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV, and Christos Georgakis, Tufts University, Medford, MA

Back in 2005 at Tufts University, Prof. Christos Georgakis asked his PhD student, Fernando V. Lima, to help him writing an ACS-PRF New Directions grant on process operability of nonsquare systems. The grant entitled “Interval Operability as a Design Tool for Model Predictive Controllers” was awarded in 2006 and it was critical for supporting Fernando’s PhD work. Time went by and Fernando became a professor at West Virginia University in 2013. As new faculty, Prof. Lima decided to continue his research on process operability, now applying the operability concept to the completely new direction of process intensification. He then wrote the Doctoral New Investigator grant entitled “Novel Operability-Based Approach for the Efficient Design and Intensification of Energy Systems” which was awarded in 2016. This grant enabled Prof. Lima to explore new directions on process operability which also helped him eventually in winning the NSF-CAREER Award in 2017 that included the operability theme applied to modularization. We would like to express our appreciation to the grant opportunities that ACS-PRF provides. The aforementioned ACS-PRF grants were critical in both of our careers, especially for the development and shaping of Fernando’s career, first as a PhD student, and then as a young professor.

Dr. Fernando V. Lima, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV & Dr. Christos Georgakis, Tufts University, Medford, MA

My ongoing PRF DNI grant came at a critical time as I’m aggressively trying to continue to grow my research program in my third year as a faculty member. With this award, I was able to hire a new graduate student for a high-risk project involving new methods of modeling catalyst stability with very limited preliminary data. These results have opened the door for me to pursue new funding to make this a permanent (and even more prominent) research direction in my group. Opportunities such as the DNI award are critical for giving junior faculty such as myself the confidence and financial support they need to expand their research portfolio and set the stage for successful research careers.

Dr. Luke Roling, Iowa State University, Ames, IA

The first group of ACS PRF Grants approved in 1993 brought home one of the most significant impacts in my nascent research program with a Type G grant. This award was the first major accomplishment for my independent research program as a brand new Assistant Professor, and remains an important milestone on the path of discovery in organic and biomedical chemistry that has beckoned me through the subsequent 28 years of an academic career. These funds, while relatively modest in magnitude, allowed me to hire the first of many undergraduate student researchers in my lab, and we initiated experiments that led to progress and enabled us to establish new collaborations that multiplied the overall impact of this pilot grant many-fold. I will always appreciate the ACS Petroleum Research Fund Advisory Board for taking a chance on a newbie!

Dr. Jeffrey B. Arterburn, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM

Dr. Carlos Baiz, University of Texas at Austin

Our PRF DNI grant has enabled us to explore the dynamics of water near surfactant interfaces, a new research area in our group. Importantly, the PRF grant has enabled us to focus on surfactant mixtures relevant to industrial and environmental applications. We study surfactants that are used in oil spill cleanup operations. Typical industrial formulations contain thousands of compounds because surfactants are commonly synthesized from fatty acid mixtures derived from natural oils, whereas surfactants commonly studied in the lab consist of a single, pure compound. We have found that heterogeneity significantly alters the properties of the interface, by affecting how surfactants are packed. This alters the interfacial water dynamics, as shown in the cartoon. In a single-surfactant interface, the molecules are more ordered and more closely packed together, like a solid, whereas in heterogeneous compositions, molecules are increasingly disordered. Developing surfactant formulations is currently a costly and empirical endeavor, we expect that these results will serve as a starting point for understanding the properties of mixed surfactants, and more importantly, serve as a platform for developing formulations with tailored properties.

Dr. Carlos Baiz, University of Texas at Austin

The ACS PRF# 58560-DNI5 grant provided the opportunity to continue PI’s research on bubble nucleation. The research findings were helpful to submit multiple proposals for industrial and government funding. The PI also had the opportunity to deliver two invite talks based on the research findings. His research team has published a peer-reviewed journal article and a peer-reviewed conference paper. The team has presented at three national/international conferences. The PI, three graduate researchers, and two undergraduate researchers have been partially supported by this grant. The graduate and undergraduate students were trained on various state-of-the-art surface science concepts such as wettability alteration & quantification, quantification of surface roughness, and pressure-, vacuum-, and temperature-driven bubble nucleation. The PI’s research group participated in the National Lab Day and GrandParent University events at Oklahoma State University. The wettability alteration procedures developed as a part of this research were useful to prepare teaching aids to demonstrate surface tension, wettability & capillary pressure concepts, and their daily life and industrial applications.  Therefore, the PI is deeply grateful for the support from the ACS PRF grant to establish a highly visible research program on bubble nucleation, and to train and work with excellent graduate and undergraduate researchers.

Dr. Prem Bikkina, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK

Dugan Hayes, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI

The Hayes Group at the University of Rhode Island traveled to the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory this past year to investigate the mechanism of copper-catalyzed photocycloaddition reactions using ultrafast X-ray transient absorption spectroscopy. By exciting a solution of copper triflate and norbornene with a femtosecond ultraviolet laser pulse and probing it later with a synchronized X-ray pulse tuned to the copper K-edge, we were able to observe the initial photoinduced charge transfer event that triggers the olefin dimerization reaction. Our ACS PRF grant allowed us to travel to this world-class facility to perform these element-specific measurements, which in turn allowed us to better understand the ultrafast optical data we took in our lab in Rhode Island. We hope to use this knowledge to expand to scope of metal-catalyzed photochemical reaction of olefins and other petroleum-derived molecules and thereby harness the power of light to drive otherwise impossible transformations. Photo (Above): Gethmini Jayasekara, Melissa Smith, and Cali Antolini at the beamline at the Advanced Photon Source.  Photo (Below): A liquid jet of copper triflate and norbornene in tetrahydrofuran is illuminated by a femtosecond ultraviolet laser pulse in a hard X-ray fluorescence measurement apparatus.

Dr. Dugan Hayes, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI

M. Toufiqur Reza, Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, FL

The American Chemical Society’s Petroleum Research Fund grant (PRF# 60342-DNI9) has allowed our lab to conduct state-of-the-art experiments and molecular simulations on novel deep eutectic solvents (DES). The knowledge gathered during this project has allowed us to secure additional funding from National Science Foundation. This project is also allowing us to train two graduate and two undergraduate researchers. The students have already submitted and/or published several peer reviewed articles in reputed journals and present at the national meeting of American Chemical Society and American Institute of Chemical Engineers. Due to the prestigious nature of this award, our University published an article about our research, which not only gives us visibility in the University but also provide us acknowledgements in the scientific community. We are now collaborating with other national and international Universities on DES.  Career-wise this funding has allowed me to expand my area of expertise and to both integrate novel solvent research into petroleum processing as well as include petroleum chemistry fundamentals in my other areas of research. I have now been frequently requested to review articles and proposals on separations. I believe ACS PRF grant could be the step-stone for my professional career.

Dr. M. Toufiqur Reza, Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, FL   

With the ACS PRF award I was able to explore a completely new direction for my group, both in terms of scientific approach and scientific problem! We learned how to use accurate defect calculations to understand diffusion in materials from first principles. While the simulation work is ongoing the grant already was extremely beneficial for my amazing student, Alina Kononov, who says: “The project funded by the PRF grant expanded my expertise in electronic structure calculations beyond the narrow focus of my thesis and prepared me for a broader range of future projects within this research field. The funding also enabled conference participation, where I received helpful feedback on my work and learned about exciting, cutting-edge developments in materials research. The grant not only supported scientific discoveries, but also contributed to the development of scientific talent!”  She is now about to defend her PhD thesis and then will move on to an exciting postdoc position. For this next step I wish her all the best and am looking forward to seeing her advance in her promising and successful career!

Dr. Andre Schleife, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Nicholas P. Stadie, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT

The Petroleum Research Fund provided the first sum of money competitively obtained in my career, which was a crucial supplement to the modest startup grant I was able to receive at a lesser known state university on the outskirts of the academic map. The graduate research assistant this enabled, in addition to the half-dozen undergraduate researchers, was then the driving force for building and maintaining a steady flow of discovery, which ultimately culminated in the successful funding of a major research project from the Department of Energy. It is hard to overstate the impact this will have on our future path as a group, as well as the future for materials chemistry research in Montana. We are very grateful to the American Chemical Society and particularly the donors of the PRF for their commitment to early-career researchers in the fundamental chemical sciences.

Dr. Nicholas P. Stadie, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT

Developing and funding a nascent research program as a new assistant professor can be a daunting task. In my case the ACS-PRF was an integral part of the learning experience involved in getting established. My first independent proposal was submitted to PRF, which became to my first rejection. The feedback I received both from the reviewers and the program officer led to my first funded proposal the following year. That PRF-funded project allowed us to pursue the ideas that laid the groundwork for our first federal grant. I know that my experience is not unique, and am thankful for the vital role that the ACS-PRF plays in the training and support of new investigators.

Dr. Nathan D. Schley, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN

Rafael Verduzco, Rice University, Houston, TX

The ACS PRF DNI grant I received in 2012 initiated my group’s work with bottlebrush polymers. Bottlebrush polymers are very highly branched polymers, and at the time there were many questions related to their molecular structure, their properties in solution, and their self-assembly. My group first focused on studying the conformation and size of bottlebrush polymers in solution through small-angle neutron scattering measurements. We also studied stimuli-responsive bottlebrush polymers, and found they could for a lyotropic liquid crystal phase in solution.   The ACS PRF grant supported two students in my group, Stacy Pesek and Xianyu Li, both of which have since graduated with PhDs in chemical engineering and moved on to industrial research positions. They are shown in the photo attached, which was taken around the time I received the ACS PRF DNI grant. Work in my group on bottlebrush has continued to this day, where we are studying how bottlebrush polymers segregate to surfaces and interfaces due to their novel brush-like architecture. This work would not have been possible without the initial support of the ACS PRF.

Dr. Rafael Verduzco, Rice University, Houston, TX

Dr. Keith A. Brown, Boston University, MA

The Doctoral New Investigator Award from the ACS Petroleum Research Fund has allowed me to support the PhD studies of Abigail Rendos. Through this funding, she is able to study smart fluids such as ferrofluids or magnetorheological fluids that exhibit fascinating bulk properties upon the application of a external magnetic or electric field. Her research focuses on understanding how the unique properties of smart fluids emerge from the particulate constituents, optimizing these complex fluids for better performance, and exploring their applications. This award has been essential to her success in graduate school and provided her with the resources to explore a research topic about which she is passionate. It has also resulted in five and counting publications and two productive collaborations, one to provide novel materials to disperse in the smart fluids, and another to realize the use of these fluids in soft robotics. Abby reports that this research topic never ceases to keep her engaged and learning and that she is thankful for the support the Petroleum Research Fund has provided.

Dr. Keith A. Brown, Boston University, MA

Dr. Joseph Samaniuk, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO

The financial support from this grant has had an enormously positive impact on both the primary investigator, and the graduate student who was supported. The student’s progress towards completing their dissertation was accelerated because they did not need to act as a teaching assistant for these past two years, allowing them to focus entirely on their thesis, ultimately improving their employment opportunities and facilitating long-term career plans. The student gained expertise in hydrate science and an understanding of the problems surrounding hydrate formation in the energy industry. In that way this project has opened career paths for the student in the energy industry that had not been previously imagined. The impact on the PI’s career cannot be understated. This was the seminar grant for the PI, which has been followed by funding from the National Science Foundation, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. This project has also encouraged the PI to become an active participant in the ongoing efforts of multiple other groups within the PI’s department to investigate hydrates for both energy storage and flow assurance reasons. In short, this ACS-PRF grant has created an opportunity for the PI to have a lasting impact in the energy sciences.

Dr. Joseph Samaniuk, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO

I am extremely grateful for the support of the Petroleum Research Fund (PRF)! I was very fortunate to receive the PRF DNI support in my first year as an assistant professor. The grant supported my very first PhD student who is now a faculty member in the US. It also allowed me to explore innovative manufacturing process using petroleum byproducts to manufacture graphene in a low cost manner. Results and recognition of PRF further supported me for receiving additional awards (such as NSF CAREER, AFOSR and ONR YIPs, NASA ECF) and grants throughout the years. I am again truly thankful for the support from the PRF, and also appreciate the kind advice and guidance from Dr. Burt Lee.

Dr. Sungwoo Nam, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Dr. Jianing Li, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT

It was my first successful grant application in my independent career, when I received the PRF-DNI award in 2017. In the middle of an international conference, I read the email from Dr. Fahr, and I felt like a door was finally opening! Doubtlessly, this award had profound impacts on my career development, as well as on the development of junior researchers in my group. It not only allowed me to advance my research program in multiscale modeling, but also to enter a new research area of nanomaterials design. Furthermore, with the generous support from PRF to my effort and to research equipment, I gained valuable experience of how to work as a PI. The findings from this project were published and later served as preliminary results for my other grant applications (including the one for my NSF CAREER award). Thanks to PRF’s emphasis on student support, I was able to work with four excellent students/scholars, two of whom are now at faculty or equivalent positions. To me and many others, PRF is really an invaluable program in developing the next generation of chemical engineers and scientists.

Dr. Jianing Li, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT

Dr. Reza Foudazi, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM

The Doctoral New Investigator grant has enabled my research group to perform a fundamental research on a high-risk area in my filed of expertise, colloid and polymer science. Before becoming a faculty member, I mainly worked on emulsions and their polymerization. With ACS PRF grant, my research group could expand our knowledge in nanoemulsions and nanoporous polymers. The challenge we took was to make concentrated nanoemulsions, study their structure, and use them as template for polymer synthesis. The outcomes have been rewarding in terms of research and education. The undergraduate students and postdoctoral researchers had the opportunity to perform the research and present their results in scientific communities. The undergraduate students continued their study in the graduate level and the postdoctoral fellows had the opportunity to gain mentorship skills. We have also one paper published and two more manuscripts in final revisions before submission. Additionally, enough preliminary data is generated during the ACS PRF project for development of a follow-up grant to federal agencies.

Dr. Reza Foudazi, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM

Dr. John A. Pojman, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA

My first grant as a professor was a PRF Starter-G grant in 1991 to study “Traveling Fronts of Polymerization”.  This started thirty years of studying, what we now call, frontal polymerization in which a localized reaction propagates from the coupling of thermal transport with the Arrhenius dependence of an exothermic polymerization.  We  first studied the nonlinear behavior of propagating fronts, including fronts that as helices and then we “cure-on demand” materials that have long pot lives but can react rapidly as fronts.  That first grant has now led to commercial products for art and home repair.

Figure 1. (Left) A polymerization front propagating through a mixture of acrylates and inorganic fillers.  

Dr. John A. Pojman, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA


Figure 2 (Right). Fronts can propagate in helical patterns as seen in this 5 cm diameter sample.

Dr. John A. Pojman, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA

The PRF grant has enabled the PI (Shengfeng Cheng) to venture into the field of ionic polymers and identify several research topics including the drying process of polymer solutions that will define the research portfolio of the PI’s group in the coming years. The research funded by the grant has resulted in 7 peer-reviewed papers and a few more are in preparation. The grant was used to support two graduate students who obtained their PhD degrees in 2018 and 2019, respectively. The grant supported two undergraduate students. One is Hispanic and currently a graduate student in a top-tier physics program and the other is a female student who will graduate with a BS degree in 2021. Using results from the research funded by the seed grant from PRF as preliminary data, the PI developed a successful CAREER proposal to NSF that was awarded in 2020. The PRF grant has played a significant role in boosting the capability and capacity of the PI’s group to explore the nonequilibrium physics in the drying processes of soft matter solutions.

Dr. Shengfeng Cheng, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA

Funding from an ACS PRF DNI award provided key support for the scientific training of numerous students in my lab, both directly through stipend support and indirectly through supply funds. At the graduate level, the grant directly supported the first Ph.D. student in my lab, who went on to take a postdoctoral position, and partially supported the work of a second Ph.D. student. In addition, six undergraduates contributed to the project, with four writing senior honors theses on their work and one completing a masters thesis. Two of these students continued on to top-tier chemistry Ph.D. programs where they have been awarded graduate fellowships, and a third is planning to do so after completing a masters degree in my lab. Notably, one of these undergraduates was the lead author on both a perspective article and a research article. Funding from the grant also supported a stipend for a high school summer research apprentice. Overall, the PRF award has enabled my students and I to collect data for the publication of manuscripts and preliminary results for the submission of grants that were important to starting my independent career, and has supported our travel to present these results to the scientific community. 

Dr. Michelle L. Personick, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT

The ACS-PRF grants have allowed us to explore new nanomaterials as catalysts in the exciting area of converting light alkanes to alkenes. The grants also provides support to several graduate student and undergraduate researchers in our research group. A number of high school students also worked on the projects and learned about petroleum chemistry and new materials. Of course, this award is one of the main reasons for me to get tenured. Best wishes to PRF 65th Anniversary. I hope this award will have a long-last bring future and help more junior researchers to kick start their research career!

Dr. Yu Lei, University of Alabama in Huntsville