Polymer Program

Polymer Program Student Selected for 100Plus Scholarship

Polymer Program Graduate Student John ToribioPolymer Program student, John M. Toribio was awarded this year’s Student Scholarship from 100Plus, a US based organization that provides remote patient monitoring for chronic patients. Student applicants needed to submit a presentation answering the question, “How will remote patient monitoring technology advance in the future to provide better health for the patients?” John received a $2,000 prize and his presentation can be found on the 100Plus Website at the following link:

https://www.100plus.com/blog/100plus-2021-student-scholarship-winner-john-miguel-toribio

John is a 2nd year Chemistry Ph.D. student in the Sotzing Research Group working on the development of wearable electronic devices for health applications as well as synthesis and applications of cannabinoid polymers.

Dr. Kelly Burke Appointed Director of IMS Polymer Program

Kelly BurkeDr. Kelly Burke has been appointed Director of the IMS Polymer Program. She joined the UConn faculty in 2014 as Assistant Professor Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering with an appointment in the Institute of Materials Science. Since joining the faculty, she has received numerous grants and awards and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2021.

“Kelly brings a lot of new ideas, energy, and support for this program,” Dr. Steven Suib, Director of IMS, noted in announcing the appointment. She succeeds Dr. Luyi Sun in the position.

Alumnus Christopher Simone Reflects on Career at DuPont

Christopher SimonePolymer Program Alumnus, Dr. Christopher Simone (’02), is featured in an article by the American Chemical Society (ACS).  Simone’s reflection on his 19-year career with DuPont addresses topics such as how to find success in research and development in the public sector.

Chris joined DuPont in 2002 as a research chemist developing new products and processes to support the Kapton® polyimide films and Pyralux® laminates portfolio within the DuPont Interconnect Solutions business. In his 19 year career, he has progressed within the research and development organization developing novel Kapton® films and associated process research for the flexible printed circuit industry.  Read the full ACS article.

From Waste to Biodiesel

Dr. Richard Parnas
Dr. Richard Parnas pumps biodiesel.

Dr. Richard Parnas’s UConn spinoff company, REA Resource Recovery Systems, broke ground in March on a first-in-the-world, FOG-to-Biodiesel production plant at the John Oliver Wastewater Treatment Facility in Danbury, CT. The City of Danbury contracted with Veollia North America to perform a 70 million dollar plant upgrade, and the REA FOG-to-Biodiesel system is included in the overall project.

The REA system makes use of a licensed UConn patent for a novel biodiesel reactor developed by Parnas and colleagues several years ago. REA sponsors work at UConn to continue development efforts on several aspects of the process including novel methods of sulfur reduction using protein/polymer conjugate gel adsorbents.

Dr. Parnas retired in 2020 after 19 years as a Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and faculty member of the Institute of Materials Science (IMS) Polymer Program.

Recent Ph.D. Graduate Reflects on Experience as IMS Polymer Program Student

Dr. Deepthi Varghese
Dr. Deepthi Varghese

After completing a Master’s Degree in Biochemistry from St. Josephs Arts & Science College in Bangalore, India, Deepthi Varghese joined the UConn Chemistry graduate program in the fall semester of 2014. After hearing brief research presentations from the chemistry departmental faculty, she became interested in Polymer Science with Prof. Douglas Adamson, an unexpected diversion from her initial plans for a career in biochemistry into a field in which she had no experience.

Although the lack of experience created a steep learning curve, Deepthi embraced this new research direction. While she faced challenges during the first two years, looking back, Deepthi says that she gained far more knowledge than expected, including polymer science, electro chemistry, and setting up scientific research laboratories.

Deepthi also struggled with many challenges regarding science including the fact that experiments are more likely to fail than succeed; science takes far more time than initially expected; and there is never enough time to accomplish everything. Lessons like this can be applied to all aspects of life, business, and art, as well as science.

In addition to the science, Deepthi has increased her knowledge of communications, independent learning, and keeping an open mind to feedback from all sources. She realized that you never know who will have valuable knowledge.

“Keeping an open ear and open mind allows you to learn from faculty, technicians, graduate students, and undergraduate students as well,” Deepthi says. She noted that undergraduates, especially those from outside disciplines, are also able to contribute bits of knowledge to the scientific challenges of the day.

Deepthi became involved with UConn organizations, the South Asia Community (Tarang) and the Graduate School Senate, where she was treasurer and president, respectively. This experience helped her learn organizational leadership.

Looking back on her graduate experience at UConn, Deepthi says that she grew as a scientist as well as a person. She had a number of unexpected experiences that changed her in many ways, all positive. In November, 2019, Deepthi started her professional career as a TD Etch Module Engineer at Intel, Hillsboro, Oregon.

IMS Polymer Program Members Inducted into UConn NAI Chapter

NAI Members and Inductees
NAI UConn Chapter members and inductees (Dr. Alexandru Asandei is 3rd from left, Dr. Richard Parnas is 4th from left).

IMS Polymer Program faculty members, Dr. Alexandru Asandei and Dr. Richard Parnas, were inducted into the UConn Chapter of the National Association of Inventors (NAI) in December 2019. The UConn NAI chapter was established in 2017 as the first Connecticut chapter of the national organization which was formed in 2010. The goal of NAI is to recognize and encourage academic inventors, enhance the visibility of academic technology and innovation, encourage the disclosure of intellectual property, educate and mentor innovative students, and translate the inventions of its members to benefit society.

Dr. Richard Parnas — whose research pursuits include biofuels production and separations, renewable polymers and composites, and interface engineering — holds a patent for a novel membrane that can be used to make biodiesel production more profitable by aiding the conversion of glycerol to 1,3 propanediol, a valuable platform chemical.

In 2018, Dr. Parnas and Trumbull, CT-based REA Resource Recovery Systems partnered with UConn and the Greater New Haven Water Pollution Control Authority (GNHWPCA) to place a pilot-scale demonstration system at the East Shore Water Pollution Abatement Facility in New Haven to convert brown grease to biodiesel fuel. The type of biodiesel fuel produced through this partnership, called Brown FOG (fats, oils, grease) can be used for power generation, including to power vehicles.

In May of 2019, U.S. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) and former New Haven Mayor Toni Harp visited the joint UCONN/GNHWPCA/REA project at the East Shore facility to celebrate the successful performance of the demonstration system and to kick off the effort to place a full-scale commercial system at several wastewater treatment plants in the state. Dr. Parnas has since partnered with the city of Danbury on a project to create a biodiesel production facility at that city’s water treatment plant.

Dr. Alexandru Asandei’s research interests include controlled radical polymerization, block copolymers, fluoropolymers, catalysis, biodegradable polymers, and organometallic chemistry. He holds several patents related to his research in polymer science and has served as an editorial board member for the Journal of Polymer Science: Part A: Polymer Chemistry since 2009. Dr. Asandei has served as co-organizer of the American Chemical Society (ACS) Workshop on Fluoropolymers in 2016, 2018, 2020.

In 2015, Dr. Asandei completed a month-long visiting professorship at Pôle Chimie Balard in Montpelier, France. Asandei was selected for the Chaire TOTAL program which includes a visiting professor/researcher component, an International School on Sustainable Chemistry and Energy initiative, and a scholarship program. As part of the program, Asandei presented four invited lectures. While in France, Professor Asandei also made invited presentations at the University of Toulouse and the University of Grenoble.  Dr. Asandei has been called upon to present his research at numerous conferences, universities, and industry organizations.