Institute of Materials Science

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

Hebert-Kumbar-Nieh-Teschke
(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

MSE PhD Candidate Encourages Other Female Researchers to Not Doubt Their Own Voices

As of 2021, female PhD researchers like Suman Kumari are welcoming the challenge of pursuing a passion in a still male-majority field. Though representation has improved compared to decades ago, the imbalance in a classroom or lab can still be intimidating. According to Kumari, though it hasn’t been easy being a female in her discipline, this shouldn’t dissuade others from pursuing materials science and engineering.

“Though the world is changing, it’s challenging as a female in the materials science and engineering field, but nothing is impossible if you have the will to do it. I would say, ‘listen to yourself, you know what you want to do,” she says.

In much of her career so far, Kumari has not let any hesitation stop her.

Read the full story from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering

Xueju “Sophie” Wang Receives NSF CAREER Award

Xueju "Sophie" WangMSE Assistant Professor Xueju “Sophie” Wang has been awarded the NSF Faculty Early Development Program CAREER Award for her proposal entitled “Mechanics of Active Polymers and Morphing structures: Determine the Role of Molecular Interactions and Stiffness Heterogeneity in Reversible Shape Morphing.” It is one of NSF’s most prestigious awards.

Wang’s NSF CAREER award will support her research on fundamental studies of the mechanics of innovative active polymers and morphing structures. Soft active polymers that can change their shapes and therefore functionalities upon exposure to external stimuli are promising for many applications, including soft robotics, artificial muscles and tissue repair. This research project aims to establish the missing correlations across the molecular, material and structural levels of novel active polymers for their rational design, manufacturing and applications, by using liquid crystal elastomers as a model material system.

“I am very grateful and honored to receive this prestigious award, and I look forward to working with my students to address challenges in innovative active polymers and to apply them in emerging fields like soft robotics,” Wang said.

Read the full Department of Materials Science and Engineering Story

Rajeswari Kasi to Serve on Editorial Board of Micromolecules

Rajeswari Kasi
Dr. Rajeswari Kasi

Professor of Chemistry Rajeswari (Raji) Kasi has accepted an appointment to the editorial board of Macromolecules, a peer-reviewed scientific journal published by the American Chemical Society. The publication was first published in 1968 on a bi-monthly basis but has, over the years, moved from monthly to bi-weekly publication.

Kasi’s research encompasses all aspects of materials design including synthesis of hierarchically structured polymers and polymer-hybrid materials with tailored architecture, functionality, and composition; investigation of self-assembly and structure at various length scales; and evaluation of unique macroscopic material properties. She will serve a three-year term on the editorial board.

Radenka Maric Named UConn Interim President

Radenka MaricRadenka Maric, a distinguished UConn faculty member who has led UConn’s surging research enterprise to new heights as an administrator, has been named UConn’s new interim president.

Members of the Board of Trustees voted unanimously and enthusiastically Wednesday to appoint Maric, who began serving as interim president on February 1. She will serve as successor to Interim President Dr. Andrew Agwunobi, who will assist with the transition until he leaves later in February for a new position in private industry.

Maric is a highly respected researcher and mentor who joined UConn’s faculty in 2010, and has served for the last five years as its vice president for research, innovation, and entrepreneurship. She will serve as interim president of the University throughout the planned search for the permanent appointee.

“I am honored and humbled to serve as interim President of the University of Connecticut and UConn Health,” Maric says. “UConn strives to be the place where all students, regardless of the zip code and country they were born and raised in, will have equal opportunities and be fully prepared for their life journey upon graduation.”

Read the full story at UConn Today