Institute of Materials Science

In Memoriam: Dr. Jeffrey Schweitzer

Jeffrey S. SchweitzerIMS is saddened to report the recent passing of Dr. Jeffrey Schweitzer, Professor in the department of Physics with an appointment in IMS.  We are grateful to Dr. Peter Schweitzer (not related) for the following recap of Dr. Schweitzer’s background and tenure at UConn:

Dr. Schweitzer earned his B.S. from Carnegie Institute of Technology (1967) and M.S. (1969) and Ph.D. (1972) from Purdue University. He was postdoc at the California Institute of Technology (1972-1974) and Scientific Advisor for the Schlumberger-Doll Research Laboratory (1974-1996). Since 1997,  was Research Professor in the Department of Physics at UConn.

After receiving a PhD in low energy nuclear physics, Jeff’s research activities have included many areas of basic research in a broad range of fields employing nuclear physics techniques. Jeff has conducted basic nuclear physics and astrophysics research using of radioactive ion beams. He studied the kinetics of chemical reactions including nanoscale studies of cement chemistry with nuclear resonant reaction analysis. He has worked on the development of new detectors for nuclear radiation, and was an expert in non-linear time series analysis of variable solar and astrophysical phenomena. Other areas of research have included medical physics, forensic science, nuclear geophysics, geology and geochemistry, as well as industrial applications.

Jeff’s more recent research was funded by NASA and focused on planetary science topics and instrument development for satellites and landers including the modelling of surface bulk elemental composition measurements on Venus as well as Martian subsurface elemental composition measurements with neutron and gamma ray instruments.

At UConn, Jeff mentored many students and younger professors. Among his PhD advisees are:

  • Nada Jevtic, now Assistant Professor of Physics, Bloomsburg University, Pennsylvania
  • James Zickefoose, now Senior Research Scientist, Mirion Corporation (formerly Canberra Industries), Meriden, Connecticut

Jeff’s Research Gate profile contains links to many of his works:

IMS sends our deepest condolences to the family of Dr. Schweitzer.

Xiuling Lu Promoted to Professor

Xiuling Lu
Professor Xiuling Lu

(from UConn Today)

IMS Faculty member Xiuling Lu has been promoted to professor in the School of Pharmacy.  She joined the School of Pharmacy as an assistant professor in 2011. She has been active in the teaching and research programs as well as contributing to the service mission of the school and university. Lu’s research program is focused on nanoparticle-based drug delivery systems for improving therapeutic effectiveness utilizing biologically compatible approaches. Since her promotion to associate professor in 2017, Lu has established strong collaborations with cross-disciplinary external researchers and garnered external grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Federal Drug Administration (FDA), American Cancer Society, pharmaceutical industry and the Center for Pharmaceutical Processing Research (CPPR). Her service contribution to the school and beyond were recognized when she received the 2019 Robert L. McCarthy Faculty Service Award.

Lu has taught classes in both the professional (Pharm.D.) and graduate (Ph.D.) programs and has trained more than 30 BS, MS and Ph.D. students, as well as 12 postdoctoral scholars and visiting scientists doing research in her lab. Her overall goals are to teach and train the next generation of pharmacy professionals and pharmaceutical scientists, serve the university and broader community promoting science and education, and to utilize formulation science and platform technologies to enable effective pharmaceutical products for improving human health.

Congratulations to Young Inventor and Winner of IMS Award

The Connecticut Invention Convention (CIC), an internationally recognized educational organization started in 1983, provides curriculum for use by Connecticut K-12 teachers to develop creative problem-solving and critical thinking skills through invention and entrepreneurship. CIC curriculum is standards-based and enables students to research, analyze and effectively focus on and solve their real-life problems.

Each year, the work of both teachers and students culminates in a final competitition where students are recognized with awards and prizes for their hard work on the inventions they create.

A long-time sponsor of Connecticut Invention Convention, the UConn Institute of Materials Science established the Most Innovative Use of Materials Award in 2021. We are happy to congratulate the 2022 winner, fifth grader Alexis Werkhoven, for her Merry Berries invention. We extend our congratulations to all the prize winners and to every participant.

Yao Lin Receives Multi-Year NSF Grant

Yao Lin
Dr. Yao Lin

Professor Yao Lin has been awarded a five-year NSF grant (DMR #2210590, $719,664), for his research project, “Advancing Processability and Material Performance of Synthetic Polyamino Acids with Transformable Secondary Structures.”

Dynamic transition from helices to sheets in fibrous proteins facilitates a remarkable increase in the strength, stiffness, and energy dissipation capacity. Polyamino acids (PAAs), also known as synthetic polypeptides, can adopt analogous secondary structures. However, inducing the structural transitions in the solid PAA of high molecular weights (MWs) is a largely unmet challenge. As a result, many of the PAA materials either have poor thermomechanical properties or are incompatible with polymer processing techniques such as extrusion and compression molding. This project aims to develop a general strategy to significantly improve the thermomechanical properties and processability of synthetic PAAs by taking advantage of metastable, transformable structures of PAAs and control over their in-situ transition and hierarchical organization.

The findings from this project may enable the generation of polymeric systems that will approach the level of sophistication and versatility found in some of nature’s biomaterials. The research also provides a model system of synthetic polymers with intrinsic secondary structures in which the different partitioning of intramolecular and intermolecular networks determines the macroscopic properties of materials, enabling comparison of the experimental results with predictions from simulations and modeling.

Graduate and undergraduate students will be trained on bioinspired polymeric materials and acquire skills in polymer synthesis, material characterization, mechanics, and computer simulations.

Seven IMS Faculty Members Promoted

Faculty Promotions 2022
(l-r) Drs. Yupeng Chen, Elena Dormidontova, Ali Gokirmak, Ying Li, Xiuling Lu, Thanh Nguyen, Arash Zaghi

The Office of the Provost recently announced the award of promotion and/or tenure to 69 faculty across the Storrs and regional campuses. Seven IMS faculty members were among them.

Evaluations for promotion, tenure, and reappointment apply the highest standards of professional achievement in scholarship, teaching, and service for each faculty member evaluated. Applications for promotion and tenure are reviewed at the department level, school or college level, and finally at the Office of the Provost before recommendations are forwarded to the Board of Trustees.

Newly promoted IMS faculty members include:

From the School of Engineering

Promotion to Associate Professor and Tenure

Promotion to Professor

Tenure as Associate Professor

From the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Promotion to Professor

From the School of Pharmacy

Promotion to Professor

IMS congratulates each of these faculty members for their excellence and dedication.

Elyse Schriber Named NSF Graduate Research Fellow

ElyseElyse Schriber Schriber, a second-year materials science graduate student in the lab of assistant professor of chemistry J. Nathan “Nate” Hohman, was named among five UConn students to receive the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (NSF GRFP).

Elyse began working with Hohman as an undergraduate research assistant in 2017, when he was a staff scientist at the Molecular Foundry at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab before coming to UConn.

She started working on method development for serial femtosecond chemical crystallography (SFCX) at an X-ray free electron laser (XFEL) facility in 2018. This is an X-ray crystallography technique that determines single crystal structures of materials from microcrystalline powders. She continues that work at UConn currently. The duo recently published their first paper on the method in Nature.

She plans to continue to work on different facets of the SFCX project in her graduate program, including studying ultrafast nonequilibrium excited state structural dynamics in materials.

“I started my undergraduate degree as a nontraditional student at the local community college and as a result, did not have a straightforward pathway into graduate school or academia,” says Schriber. “Being awarded the GRFP, especially with my background, makes me hopeful that more students with similar experiences can be empowered to believe that they can be successful, regardless of how they got their start.”  Read the full UConn Today Story

Materials Research Society Features Nate Hohman in Podcast

MRS Bulletin PodcastNate Hohman is the feature of the Materials Research Society (MRS) podcast, MRS Bulletin. Laura Leay interviews Hohman about the structure of two chalcogenolates his group uncovered. By combining serial femtosecond crystallography —usually used to characterize large molecules—and a clique algorithm, Hohman’s group was able to analyze the structure of small molecules. With serial femtosecond crystallography, large molecules like proteins produce thousands of spots on the detector; in contrast, small molecule crystals only a produce a few spots. The algorithm uses the pattern that the spots make on the detector to determine the orientation of as many crystals in the liquid jet as possible. The data from each crystal can then be merged together to find the structure. Nate’s research is featured in the 2022 IMS Annual Newsletter.

In Memoriam: IMS External Advisory Board Member Karl Prewo

Dr. Karl Prewo
Dr. Karl Prewo

Dr. Karl Prewo, former Institute of Materials Science (IMS) External Advisory Board member, passed away February 9, 2022, after a long illness.

A graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Dr. Prewo earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University and began his career at United Technologies Research Center where he worked for 30 years.  During that time, he was awarded 56 patents, two George Mead medals for engineering achievement, the Horner Citation, and several outstanding achievement awards. He became a Fellow of both the American Ceramic Society and ASM International, authored over 80 technical papers and four chapters in books about materials science.

He enjoyed lecturing and gave numerous presentations all over the world including teaching extension courses at UCLA, the University of Maryland, and the University of Surrey, United Kingdom. He participated for many years in an advisory capacity to the U.S. Air Force and the National Materials Advisory Board. He was elected to the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering (CASE) where he chaired the Economic Development Board.

He was a proud member of a group of fathers who founded Vernon Youth Soccer under the motto “Everyone Plays.

He is survived by the love of his life, his wife of 56 years, Karen; his son Karl Douglas and wife, Kristine, son Christopher and wife, Erin; and his grandchildren who were his pride and joy, Karl Ethan, Nicholas, Avery and Hudson, and a host of relatives living in Germany.

Yang Cao in Collaboration on Project Funded by ARPA-E OPEN 2021

Yang Cao
Dr. Yang Cao

On February 14, 2022, ARPA-E announced $175 million for 68 OPEN 2021 research and development projects aimed at developing disruptive technologies to strengthen the nation’s advanced energy enterprise. These high-impact, high-risk technologies support novel approaches to clean energy challenges.

Associate Professor and Electrical Insulation Resource Center (EIRC) Director Yang Cao and fellow researchers from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) will combine the functionality benefits of power electronics with the power density benefits of high-voltage cables to create a cohesive, all-in-one structure to replace bulky, inflexible power substations in today’s electrical grid. This “substation within a cable” design uses a cascade of coaxial power conversion cells to gradually step-down voltage to levels required by the loads. Virginia Tech’s module can achieve high power density and a form factor that enables seamless integration with the cable by mimicking a coaxial geometry design. This could eliminate the need for large and expensive power substations and enable simple integration of renewable energy sources, an electric vehicle fast-charging infrastructure, energy storage, and efficient direct current distribution lines.

The research project, Substation in a Cable for Adaptable, Low-cost Electrical Distribution (SCALED) has received $2,953,389 in funding support through the ARPA-E OPEN 2021 initiative.

Four IMS Faculty Members Elected to CASE

(l-r) Drs. Rainer Hebert, Sangamesh Kumbar, Mu-Ping Nieh, and Carolyn Teschke

The Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering (CASE) announced the election of 35 new members for 2022 who the organization describe as leading experts in science, engineering, mathematics, medicine, and technology.  12 of those newly elected members are UConn faculty and four are faculty members of the Institute of Materials Science (IMS).

Rainer Hebert, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering; Director of Pratt & Whitney Additive Manufacturing Center, Associate Director of the Institute of Materials Science

Sangamesh G. Kumbar, Associate Professor, Orthopaedic Surgery, Biomedical Engineering Health

Mu-Ping Nieh, Professor, Dept. of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, UConn School of Engineering and Institute of Materials Science

Carolyn Teschke, Professor and Interim Department Head, Molecular and Cell Biology, and Chemistry

The new members will be introduced at the Academy’s 47th Annual Meeting to be held virtually on May 26, 2022.  Read the full UConn Today story