Green Chemistry Student Awards

The ACS Green Chemistry Institute (GCI) 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. 

  • Deadline for Green Chemistry Student Award Applications: November 17, 2023. 
  • Applicants can apply for one award per cycle.
  • Winners will be announced no later than January 26, 2024.


Kenneth G. Hancock Memorial Award

The Hancock Award provides national recognition and travel funds to outstanding undergraduate and graduate students who are working to further the goals of green chemistry and/or engineering.


Meet the 2023 Hancock Awardees:

The Hancock awardees presented their most recent research findings at the 27th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Long Beach, CA, June 13-15, 2023.

Molly Sun
Molly Sun
Northwestern University
Advisor: William Dichtel

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 on-going.


Karthik Iyer
Karthik Iyer
University of California, Santa Barbara
Advisor: Bruce Lipshutz

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.



Joseph Breen Memorial Fellowship

The Breen Fellowship sponsors the participation of international undergraduate and graduate students and/or postdocs to attend the GC&E Conference and present their work.


Meet the 2023 Breen Fellowship Awardees:

The Breen Fellowship awardees presented their most recent research findings at the 27th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Long Beach, CA, June 13-15, 2023.

Thomas Freese
Thomas Freese
University of Groningen
Advisor: Ben Feringa

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 member of the green party of Germany where his responsibilities include educating the public, organizing elections, and actively taking part in discussions regarding the 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.


Francisco Yarur Villanueva
Francisco Yarur Villanueva
University of Toronto
Advisor: Mark Wilson

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.



Ciba Travel Awards in Green Chemistry

The Ciba Travel Awards sponsor the participation of undergraduate and graduate students studying at institutions in the U.S. to attend the GC&E Conference and present their work.


Meet the 2023 Ciba Travel Awardees:

The Ciba Travel awardees presented their most recent research findings at the 27th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Long Beach, CA, June 13-15, 2023.

Krystal Grieger
North Dakota State University
Advisor: Alexey Leontyev

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. 


Madeline Karod
Cornell University
Advisor: Jillian Goldfarb

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 processes 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.


Subeen Kim
Northwestern University
Advisor: William Ditchel

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.


Michele Schmidt
North Carolina State University
Advisor: Tova Williams

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 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.


Catherine Schrader
The University of Massachusetts, Boston
Advisor: Miriam Ismail

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 which would facilitate dry reforming of methane using renewable energy.


Nina McClelland Memorial Award

The Nina McClelland Memorial Award sponsors the participation of postdoctoral scholars from both U.S. and international institutions to attend the annual GC&E Conference and present their work.


Meet the 2023 Nina McClelland Awardees:

The Nina McClelland awardees presented their most recent research findings at the 27th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Long Beach, CA, June 13-15, 2023.

Shivali Banerjee
University of Illinois Urbana Champaign
Advisor: Vijay Singh

Shivali Banerjee is currently a postdoctoral associate at the Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation (CABBI), part of the Institute for Sustainability, Energy and Environment (iSEE) at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She earned her B.S. and M.S. in chemistry at Delhi University and IIT Delhi respectively, and her Ph.D. in bioprocess engineering and green chemistry at IIT Bombay and Monash University. The title of her award application is “Green process for enhanced recovery of anthocyanins as valuable co-products from bioenergy crops in a biorefinery”. 

Increased awareness green chemistry and sustainability has shifted public interest from synthetic dyes to natural plant-based pigments such as anthocyanins. These natural pigments are known for their wide range of industrial applications and can be derived from berries, grapes, purple yams, purple corn, and black rice. However, exploiting high-value food sources for colorants is not likely to be economically advantageous. Fortunately, bioenergy crops such as miscanthus, sorghum, and sugarcane have also been found to accumulate anthocyanins. In her work, Banerjee has evaluated these latter sources as potential feedstocks for the recovery of anthocyanins and applied greener methodologies for the isolation and recovery of these molecules.


Liwei Ye
Northwestern University
Advisor: Tobin Marks

Liwei Ye is currently a postdoctoral associate working with Tobin Marks at Northwestern University. He earned his B.S. in chemistry at the University of Oregon and his Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles. The title of his award application is “Rationally tailored catalysts for highly efficient chemical recycling of nylon-6 and for achieving a circular economy towards end-of-life plastics”. 

With limited technologies available for addressing end-of-life plastics, the accumulation of plastic waste has emerged as a global environmental crisis. Nylons, which are being produced at a rate of over 3 million metric tons per year, significantly contribute to the non-degradable plastic waste pollution in oceans and landfills due to their superior chemical persistency and lack of efficient recycling techniques. In his research, Ye is working to selectively depolymerize nylon-6 to its parent monomer caprolactam by rationally tailored lanthanide catalysts.


Heh-Won Chang, Ph.D. Fellowship in Green Chemistry

The Heh-Won Chang Fellowship provides financial support to full-time graduate students conducting research in green chemistry and/or engineering. Winners will be featured at the GC&E Conference.


Meet the 2023 Heh-Won Chang Awardees:

Ming-en Fei presented his most recent research findings at the 27th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Long Beach, CA, June 13-15, 2023, and Elanna Neppel will be presenting her research at the 28th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, June 3-5, 2024.

Elanna Neppel
Elanna Neppel
Michigan State University
Advisor: John R. Dorgan

Elanna Neppel is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. She earned her B.S. in chemical engineering at the University of Iowa in 2021. The title of her fellowship application is “Zero to Hero: Zero-Valued Plastic Waste Upcycled into Kevlar®”.

The ubiquitous use of the plastic packaging material polyethylene terephthalate (PET) represents a longstanding challenge to environmental and economic sustainability. The discovery of widespread microplastics throughout the environment, in the food chain, and in the bloodstreams of humans represents a significant threat to human health. PET is widely discarded because of its low economic value and obstacles to increasing the recycling rates of PET and other plastics, despite its widespread use. To mitigate these effects, Neppel is working on developing recycling routes that add economic value, i.e., processes for upcycling waste plastics. Using inexpensive reagents and well-known chemical reactions, p-phenyleneterephthalamide (PPTA), a high-performance polyaramid widely known by the tradename Kevlar®, has been synthesized from waste PET. Neppel’s future work includes focusing on increasing yields and purities of intermediates, synthesizing higher molecular weight polymers, spinning them into high-tenacity fibers, and performing relevant life cycle and technoeconomic analyses (LCA/TEA). The highly original and novel processes she is developing may enable the green transformation of zero-valued waste plastic into anti-ballistic materials for use by police officers, first responders, and the U.S. military.

Ming-en Fei
Washington State University
Advisor: Jinwen Zhang

Ming-en Fei is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Washington State University in Pullman, WA. He earned his B.S. in material science and engineering (2016) and his M.S. in forestry engineering (2018) at Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University in the People’s Republic of China. The title of his award application is “Modifications of epoxy vitrimer systems and their applications”.

Fei’s thesis research addresses the issues associated with traditional epoxy resins – a commonly used thermoset polymer used in high-performance adhesives, coatings, composite matrices, and other applications. Most current epoxy resin technologies are based on petrochemical feedstocks and yield plastics that are non-renewable, non-reparable, non-recyclable, and brittle. In addition, high-performance epoxy materials usually require extended curing at high temperatures. Fei is taking a holistic approach to address these problems through relatively simple modifications of the traditional epoxy resin systems. His advances include the use of renewable feedstocks to replace petrochemicals, a novel approach to the cross-linking mechanism, and lower-temperature curing processes.



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