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Solvay Seminar Series

Spring 2021 Solvay Seminar Series

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Prof. Guihua Yu

University of Texas at Austin

Associate Professor

"Multifunctional Hydrogels for Sustainable Energy and Environment"

Date

Wednesday, January 27

Time

11:15 AM - 12:15 PM

Location

Virtual on Zoom

Guihua Yu is Mike Walker Associate Professor of Materials Science and Mechanical Engineering at University of Texas at Austin. His research has focused on rational synthesis and self-assembly of functional organic and hybrid organic-inorganic nanomaterials, and fundamental understanding of their chemical/physical properties for advanced energy and environmental technologies. Yu has published over 200 scientific papers in many prominent journals with total citations ~35,000 times and H-index ~96. Yu is an elected fellow of Royal Society of Chemistry and Institute of Physics, and a top Highly Cited Researcher in Materials Science by Web of Science in recent years. He is the recipient of a significant number of notable awards/honors, to name a few: the prestigious O’Donnell Award in Engineering by The Academy of Medicine, Engineering, and Science of Texas (TAMEST), TMS Brimacombe Medalist Award, Polymer International-IUPAC Award for Creativity in Applied Polymer Science/Technology, US Department of Energy’s Early Career Award, ACS ENFL Emerging Researcher Award, Caltech’s Resnick Young Investigator, Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, Sloan Research Fellowship, MIT Technology Review ‘35 Top Innovators Under 35’, IUPAC Prize for Young Chemists. Yu currently serves as Associate Editor of ACS Materials Letters (a new flagship materials science journal by ACS), and is in Advisory/Editorial Board of over 20 well-known international journals such as Chem (Cell Press), Chem. Soc. Rev. (RSC), ACS Central Science, Chemistry of Materials.

Hydrogels are highly cross-linked networks of polymers saturated with water. Conventional hydrogels have found significant applications in biomedical fields such as tissue engineering and drug delivery, owing to their stimuli responsiveness and biocompatibility. We have recently developed a novel class of ‘energy hydrogels’ based on versatile gelation chemistries with highly tunable molecular building blocks and rational integration with micro-/nano-structured materials, to achieve a number of appealing functionalities that enable them as an emerging material platform for advanced energy and environmental technologies.

These nano-architected hydrogels as organic building blocks offer an array of advantageous features such as nanostructured conducting framework, exceptional electrochemical activity to store and transport ions, and synthetically tunable polymer-water interactions. Recent advances on these nanostructured hydrogels-enabled energy and environmental applications will be showcased including high-energy lithium-ion batteries, electrocatalysts, and solar-driven water desalination and atmospheric water harvesting. In this talk, I will illustrate ‘structure-derived multifunctionality’ of this special class of materials.

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Dr. Tanja Weil

Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research

Director

"Supramolecular nanostructures to control material-cell interactions"

Date

Wednesday, February 17

Time

11:15 AM - 12:15 PM

Location

Virtual on Zoom

Prof. Dr. Tanja Weil joined the Max Planck Society in 2017 as one of the directors of the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research, heading the division “Synthesis of Macromolecules”. She studied chemistry (1993–1998) at the TU Braunschweig (Germany) and the University of Bordeaux I (France) and completed her PhD at the MPI for Polymer Research under the supervision of K. Müllen. In 2003, she received the Otto Hahn Medal of the Max Planck Society. From 2002 to 2008 she managed different leading positions at Merz Pharmaceuticals GmbH (Frankfurt) from Section Head Medicinal Chemistry to Director of Chemical Research and Development. In 2008 she accepted an Associate Professor position at the National University of Singapore. Tanja Weil joined Ulm University as Director of the Institute of Organic Chemistry III / Macromolecular Chemistry in 2010. She has received numerous competitive funding at both national and international level including a Synergy Grant of the European Research Council (ERC). She serves in many advisory boards and steering committees: she is a member of the senate of the German Research Foundation, a member of the senate of the Leibniz Association and of the Leibniz evaluation panel. Tanja is an associate editor for JACS, a member of the editorial advisory board of J. Am. Chem. Soc. and of the Kuratorium of Angewandte Chemie. Her scientific interests focus on innovative synthesis concepts to achieve functional macromolecules and hybrid materials to solve current challenges in biomedicine and material science.

Polypeptide nanostructures are ubiquitous in Nature and they have been extensively studied, as they mimic the fibrous part of the extracellular matrix formed by proteins such as collagen. Moreover, they support the survival and growth of cells when applied as coatings or 3D matrices. We have identified peptide sequences that assemble into ordered peptide nanostructures capable of capturing virions and attaching to cellular membranes. The self-assembling peptides have been sequence-optimized to achieve efficient gene transduction and pH-controlled local drug release. Certain sequences also stimulated neuronal cell growth in a nerve regeneration in vivo model.

Peptide nanostructures can also be formed inside living cells by multi-step chemical reactions occurring in different cellular compartments. The formation of synthetic nanostructures inside the cytosol of cancer cells affects cell viability. Controlling cellular death (apoptosis) upon structure formation opens new opportunities for applications in oncology.

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Prof. Leila Deravi

Northeastern University

Assistant Professor

"Protein-integrated Electronics: From Molecules to Machines"

Date

Wednesday, February 24

Time

11:15 AM - 12:15  PM

Location

Virtual on Zoom

Leila Deravi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Northeastern University where she leads the Biomaterials Design Group- an interdisciplinary research team composed of chemists, engineers, and materials scientists. Their work focuses on understanding fundamental mechanisms behind systems in biology that can be used to inform the design of new classes of biomaterials that interface with or enhance the performance of humans and the environment. Their research has broad appeal across academia and industry with support from NSF (CAREER and DMR) and the DOD (ONR, ARO, AERTA, and ARL), contributing to 18 publications, 4 patent applications (1 licensed to industry), and technology transferred to a startup. Their contributions to science have also received coverage by ca. 60 new outlets including The New York Times, National Geographic, and C&EN News. 

Leila is an Alabama native. Before she started her independent faculty career, Leila received her BS in Chemistry at the University of Alabama, and her Ph.D. in Chemistry at Vanderbilt University. She subsequently completed her postdoc in Bioengineering at Harvard University.

We are developing chemo-mechatronic systems, structures, and machines that can transduce signals between the chemical, mechanical, and electrical domains in natural systems to produce intelligent behaviors in response to external stimuli. Inspired by systems spanning from how tissues build themselves to how animals camouflage, I will discuss our molecular-level approach to building new materials that can produce controllable transformations in response to specific chemical inputs for applications ranging from colorimetric sensors to implantable electronics.

Mesfin Tsige wears glasses and a suit and tie

Prof. Mesfin Tsige

University of Akron

Professor

"Morphology and Dynamics of Polymers at Surfaces and Interfaces"

Date

Wednesday, March 24

Time

11:15 AM - 12:15  PM

Location

Virtual on Zoom

Mesfin Tsige is a Professor in the Department of Polymer Science at the University of Akron, Ohio. He received the Ph.D. degree in condensed matter physics from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio and then went to Sandia National Laboratories at Albuquerque, New Mexico as a postdoctoral fellow. After four years of postdoctoral research, he joined the faculty in the department of Physics at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Illinois achieving the rank of Associate Professor before moving to the University of Akron in 2010. Tsige's group research interest is focused in the area of interfacial science. His group uses different types of simulation techniques to study fundamental problems in diffusion, adhesion, wetting, self-assembly, and rheology.

There is a tremendous need for a greater understanding of the properties of matter at surfaces and interfaces at the nanometer scale mainly driven by the unprecedented impact of nanoscale materials in current industrial products. It is well known that matter behaves in complex ways and exhibits exotic properties at nanometer length scales.  However, understanding the behavior of matter at such length scales at buried interfaces using experimental methods has in general been very difficult. Computer simulations have proven very useful in predicting properties of novel materials yet to be synthesized as well as predicting difficult to measure or poorly understood properties of existing materials. In my group, we use multiscale modeling and simulation methods and theoretical approaches to interrogate the behavior of small molecules and polymers at surfaces and interfaces. In this presentation, I will discuss how we use computational modeling methods to study the structure and dynamics of molecules at buried interfaces. I will also highlight the effects of confinement and other constraints on the mechanical and thermodynamic properties of polymers.

Emiliano Bedini wears glasses and a red shirt, and smiles

Emiliano Bedini

University of Naples, Italy

Researcher

"Regioselectively sulfated polysaccharides"

Date

Wednesday, March 31

Time

11:15 AM - 12:15 PM

Location

Virtual on Zoom

Emiliano Bedini took a Ph.D. degree in Chemical Sciences in 2003 under the guidance of Prof. Michelangelo Parrilli at the University of Naples Federico II, working on the total synthesis of oligosaccharides. During his Ph.D. work he joined for one year the group of Prof. Carlo Unverzagt at the Department of Bioorganic Chemistry of the University of Bayreuth, Germany. In 2006 Emiliano Bedini was hired as researcher at the University of Naples Federico II and then in 2018 as Associate professor of Organic Chemistry at the same University. His research is focused on the tailored structural modification of complex natural carbohydrate structures such as polysaccharides and glycolipids by multi-step semi-synthetic strategies. His research interests also include the total synthesis of bioactive oligosaccharides and glycoconjugates, as well as the development of new procedures in synthetic carbohydrate chemistry. He is author of 77 papers published on peer-reviewed journals (h-index = 18, average Impact Factor = 3.55), 4 chapters in scientific books with international relevance and one patent licensed in Europe, China and USA.

Polysaccharides are among the most abundant organic materials on Earth. They play several different roles in Nature. Apart the structural and energy storage functions, some polysaccharides – in particular those decorated with sulfate groups – are able to encode a variety of information in a plethora of biological events.[i] In humans and mammals, for example, sulfated glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) play key roles in many physiological and pathological processes such as immunity, angiogenesis, cancer, infectious diseases etc.[ii] Some of these bioactivities are exploited in already available or currently under development therapeutic treatments.[iii]

In order to fuel biomedical research with more and more polysaccharide-based drug candidates, reliable methods for their well-defined structural modifications are mandatory. Nonetheless, the development of regioselective strategies to this aim is hampered by several factors. They will be discussed in this seminar, together with the methods developed by our research group to face them, with a focus on the regioselective introduction of sulfate groups on different polysaccharides taken from microbial and algal sources.[iv],[v],[vi]

 

[i] Caputo, H.E.; Straub, J.E.; Grinstaff, M. Chem. Soc. Rev. 2019, 48, 2338–2365

[ii] Bedini, E.; Corsaro, M.M.; Fernández-Mayoralas, A.; Iadonisi, A. In Extracellular sugar-based biopolymers matrices (Cohen, E.; Merzendorfer, H. Eds), Springer, Berlin, 2019, 187–233

[iii] Arlov, Ø.; Rütsche, D.; Korayem, M.A.; Öztürk, E.; Zenobi-Wong, M. Adv. Funct. Mater. 2021, 2010732

[iv] Laezza, A.; Iadonisi, A.; Pirozzi, A; Diana, P.; De Rosa, M.; Schiraldi, C.; Parrilli, M.; Bedini, E. Chem. Eur. J. 2016, 22, 18215–18226

[v] Bedini, E.; Laezza, A.; Parrilli, M.; Iadonisi, A. Carbohydr. Polym. 2017, 174, 1224–1239

[vi] Vessella, G.; Traboni, S.; Cimini, D.; Iadonisi, A.; Schiraldi, C.; Bedini, E. Biomacromolecules, 2019, 20, 3021–3030

Seth Cohen smiles and wears a button down shirt and blazer.

Prof. Seth Cohen

University of California, San Diego

Professor

"MOF-Polymer Hybrids - At the Interface of New Materials"

Date

Wednesday, April 21

Time

11:15 AM - 12:15 PM

Location

Virtual on Zoom

Seth M. Cohen was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, California. He received a B.S. in Chemistry and B.A. in Political Science from Stanford University in 1994. He completed his Ph.D. in Chemistry at U.C. Berkeley under the direction of Prof. Kenneth N. Raymond and performed postdoctoral studies with Prof. Stephen J. Lippard at M.I.T. He started his independent career at U.C. San Diego in 2001, served as Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at U.C. San Diego from 2012−2015. His research interests are in the areas of inorganic, bioinorganic, medicinal, materials, and supramolecular chemistry.

Metal−organic frameworks (MOFs) are inherently crystalline, brittle porous solids. Conversely, polymers are flexible, malleable, and processable solids that are used for a broad range of commonly used technologies. The stark differences between the nature of MOFs and polymers has motivated efforts to hybridize crystalline MOFs and flexible polymers to produce composites that retain the desired properties of these disparate materials. Importantly, studies have shown that MOFs can be used to influence polymer structure, and polymers can be used to modulate MOF growth and characteristics. In this talk, recent developments in the synthesis of MOF-polymer hybrid materials will be discussed.

Maurizio Porfiri wears glasses and stands in front of a world map.

Prof. Maurizio Porfiri

New York University

Professor

"Modeling ionic polymer metal composites: where we are and where we should be"

Date

Wednesday, April 28

Time

11:15 AM - 12:15 PM

Location

Virtual on Zoom

Dr. Maurizio Porfiri is an Institute Professor at New York University Tandon School of Engineering, with appointments at the Center for Urban Science and Progress and the Departments of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, and Civil and Urban Engineering. He received M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in Engineering Mechanics from Virginia Tech, in 2000 and 2006; a “Laurea” in Electrical Engineering (with honors) and a Ph.D. in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics from the University of Rome “La Sapienza” and the University of Toulon (dual degree program), in 2001 and 2005, respectively. He has been on the faculty of the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department since 2006, when he founded the Dynamical Systems Laboratory. Dr. Porfiri is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). He has served in the Editorial Board of ASME Journal of Dynamics systems, Measurements and Control, ASME Journal of Vibrations and Acoustics, Flow, IEEE Control Systems Letters, IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems I, Mathematics in Engineering, and Mechatronics. Dr. Porfiri is engaged in conducting and supervising research on complex systems, with applications from mechanics to behavior, public health, and robotics. He is the author of more than 350 journal publications and the recipient of the National Science Foundation CAREER award. He has been included in the “Brilliant 10” list of Popular Science in 2010 and his research featured in all the major media outlets, including CNN, NPR, Scientific American, and Discovery Channel. Other significant recognitions include invitations to the World Laureate Forum and Frontiers of Engineering Symposia organized by National Academy of Engineering; the Outstanding Young Alumnus award by the college of Engineering of Virginia Tech; the ASME Gary Anderson Early Achievement Award; the ASME DSCD Young Investigator Award; and the ASME C.D. Mote, Jr. Early Career Award.

Ionic polymer metal composites (IPMCs) are a promising class of soft active materials. Their high compliance, low actuation voltage, and ability to operate in wet environments have motivated two decades of intensive research on IPMC actuators. While we have witnessed several breakthroughs in the technology of IPMCs, from additive manufacturing of IPMCs to IPMC-based robots, our understanding of the physical underpinnings of their actuation remains elusive. There is a paucity of continuum physically-based models to investigate IPMC actuation and sensing. Presently, we, as a community, mostly rely on either black-box lumped models, whose parameters are experimentally identified from data, or phenomenological distributed models, constructed upon classical beam theory. In this sense, we know little about multiaxial deformations elicited by counterions' diffusion and electromigration through the ionomer. In this talk, we present a physically-based modeling framework that describes the chemoelectromechanical behavior of IPMCs and, especially, resolves the complex interface phenomena taking place in the vicinity of the electrodes. The chemoelectromechanical constitutive behavior is obtained from a Helmholtz free energy density, which accounts for mechanical stretching, ion mixing, and electric polarization. Focusing on experimental observations, we demonstrate the application of the framework to study both actuation and sensing through a combination of perturbation methods and finite element analysis.

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Prof. Susannah Scott

University of California, Santa Barbara

Distinguished Professor

"Catalytic conversion of polyethylene to long-chain alkylaromatics"

Date

Wednesday, February 3

Time

11:15 AM - 12:15 PM

Location

Virtual on Zoom

Scott received her Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry from Iowa State University, under the direction of Jim Espenson and Andreja Bakac, on the activation of O2 and transition metal-catalyzed oxidation mechanisms. She was a NATO Postdoctoral Fellow with Jean-Marie Basset at the Institut de recherches sur la catalyse (CNRS) in Lyon, France, before joining the faculty of the University of Ottawa (Canada) where she was named a Canada Research Chair in 2001. In 2003, she moved to the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she currently holds the Duncan and Suzanne Mellichamp Chair in Sustainable Catalysis.

She has joint faculty appointments as a Distinguished Professor in both Chemical Engineering and in Chemistry & Biochemistry.  She is an Associate Editor for ACS Catalysis, a member of the Board of Reviewing Editors for Science, and a member of Scientific Advisory Boards at the Fritz Haber Institute, SUNCAT, SSRL, NREL, JBEI, Ames Lab, and PNNL. Her research interests include the design of heterogeneous catalysts with well-defined active sites for the efficient conversion of conventional and new feedstocks, as well as environmental catalysts to promote air and water quality. She develops new kinetic and spectroscopic methods to probe reaction mechanisms. In 2014, she founded the Mellichamp Academic Initiative in Sustainable Manufacturing and Product Design at UC Santa Barbara, where she now leads an interdisciplinary program in research and education involving faculty from chemistry, chemical engineering, materials, environmental science, industrial ecology, technology management, political science, economics, and science communication.

A successful circular plastics economy will depend on the ability to create value from commodity plastics in ways that mechanical recycling has not delivered. Chemical strategies to disassemble polymers must take into account thermodynamic and kinetic barriers, and target products of higher value. I will describe a strategy to obtain valuable alkylaromatics from polyethylene without the need for large inputs of energy or chemical resources, by coupling reactions that create and consume hydrogen.



Spring 2021 Solvay Seminar Series At A Glance

Speaker, Institution

Seminar Title

Date

Prof. Guihua Yu
University of Texas at Austin
"Multifunctional Hydrogels for Sustainable Energy and Environment" January 27, 2021
11:15 AM – 12:15 PM
Virtual on Zoom
Prof. Susannah Scott
University of California, Santa Barbara
"Catalytic conversion of polyethylene to long-chain alkylaromatics" February 3, 2021
11:15 AM – 12:15 PM
Virtual on Zoom
Dr. Tanja Weil
Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research
"Supramolecular nanostructures to control material-cell interactions" February 17, 2021
11:15 AM – 12:15 PM
Virtual on Zoom

Prof. Leila Deravi
Northeastern University

"Protein-integrated Electronics: From Molecules to Machines"

February 24, 2021
11:15 AM - 12:15 PM
Virtual on Zoom

Prof. Mesfin Tsige
University of Akron
"Morphology and Dynamics of Polymers at Surfaces and Interfaces" March 24, 2021
11:15 AM - 12:15 PM
Virtual on Zoom
Emiliano Bedini
University of Naples, Italy
"Regioselectively sulfated polysaccharides" March 31, 2021
11:15 AM - 12:15 PM
Virtual on Zoom
Prof. Seth Cohen
University of California, San Diego
"MOF-Polymer Hybrids - At the Interface of New Materials" April 21, 2021
11:15 AM - 12:15 PM
Virtual on Zoom
Prof. Maurizio Porfiri
New York University
"Modeling ionic polymer metal composites: where we are and where we should be" April 28, 2021
11:15 AM - 12:15 PM
Virtual on Zoom