Introducing the ACS Materials Letters Early Career Advisory Board - ACS Axial
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Introducing the ACS Materials Letters Early Career Advisory Board

ACS Materials Letters is pleased to introduce the formation of an Early Career Advisory Board. It features ten fast-rising researchers from across the globe whose research reflects the breadth of topics in materials science. This stellar group of researchers will be working alongside Deputy Editor Bin Liu as well as the journal’s Associate Editors to provide a stronger link between ACS Materials Letters, the materials community, and the quickly evolving research areas and trends.

Take a few minutes getting to know the members of the ACS Materials Letters Early Career Advisory Board:

Raffaella Buonsanti

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Chemical Sciences and Engineering at EPFL since October 2015. My group discovers how to make tiny rocks that can convert CO2 into useful compounds. I obtained my Ph.D. in Nanochemistry at the National Nanotechnology Laboratory, University of Salento. I then spent over five years at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, first as a postdoc and project scientist at the Molecular Foundry and after as a tenure-track staff scientist in the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis.

I love chemistry, materials, engineering, outdoors, running, and cats.

Describe your current research (or areas of interest).

My group works at the interface between materials chemistry and electrocatalysis, focusing on CO2 conversion.

What are the major challenges facing early career chemists?

Learning how to be a good mentor for each student. This is a challenge, but it comes with major rewards if you succeed!

In your opinion, what are some of the current global challenges you think have to be addressed by innovative materials science and engineering research?

Energy and sustainability challenges remain my top priorities.

Read Her Research in ACS Publications Journals

Julie L. Fenton

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am currently an Arnold O. Beckman Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Chemistry at Northwestern University. I have been working to develop new routes to covalent organic framework thin films and membranes. I earned my B.S. degree in chemistry at Messiah College and my Ph.D. in Chemistry at Pennsylvania State University.

Outside of the lab, I enjoy cross-training, trivia, cooking, and travel.

Describe your current research (or areas of interest).

Broadly, I consider myself a synthetic materials chemist. Though I have worked on numerous types of materials, including classic inorganic solids, colloidal nanoparticles, framework materials, and polymers, my interests have largely focused on developing new and effective tools to break through the traditional synthetic bottlenecks, opening the door to generate increasingly complex materials, targeted properties, or other challenging features.

What are the major challenges facing early career chemists/scientists?

Science is a demanding, time-intensive career no matter what stage you are in. An increasingly competitive scientific landscape coupled with limited funding resources only compounds the best-case scenario stress.

As an early career researcher transitions from a lab-centric job to a managerial role, the technical competences that earned them the job must be supplemented, rapidly, with additional skills: budgeting, managerial tasks, solo grant & manuscript writing, teaching, navigating review processes, etc. They must do all this while getting their lab set-up, seeking tenure, supporting their trainees, and doing lab work. The amount of time dedicated to this “on-the-job” training seems to be a big differentiator between later-stage researchers and early-career researchers.

In your opinion, what are some of the current global challenges you think have to be addressed by innovative materials science and engineering research?

I think the most exciting thing about science, all science, is the serendipity – that we truly don’t know what or where the next big breakthrough is going to be. Materials research broadly is poised to make breakthroughs across numerous fields: catalysis, electronics, renewables, biomedicine, energy storage, to name a few. Developing new materials will enable heretofore unimagined properties and applications to meet world needs.

Read Her Research in ACS Publications Journals

Albert Liu

Tell us a little about yourself.

I received my Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from California Institute of Technology, and am currently working on my Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Before joining MIT as a presidential fellow, I worked on different aspects of chemical catalysis. Since MIT, I have expanded my research portfolio into the realm of low-dimensional electronic materials.

Describe your current research (or areas of interest).

My current interest involves harnessing small, low-dimensional material interactions for exploring emergent behaviors in dynamic electronic systems. I have also pioneered a nano-fabrication method to assemble 2D material encapsulated colloidal particles as autonomous electronic devices, known as “colloidal electronics.”

What are the major challenges facing early career chemists?

Identification of interesting yet impactful problems to solve and take learnings out of the laboratory setting and make a practical impact on a societal scale.

In your opinion, what are some of the current global challenges you think have to be addressed by innovative materials science and engineering research?

Developing new materials/technologies to help slow down or even reverse the progression of anthropogenic global warming and inventing new ways for artificial devices to communicate with biological cells (e.g., neurons).

Read His Research in ACS Publications Journals

Wei Luo

Tell us a little about yourself.

I received B.E. and M.E. degrees in Electronic Engineering from Northwestern Polytechnical University. Then, I changed my major to materials science and got a Ph.D. degree from Huazhong University of Science and Technology. After that, I joined the department of chemistry at Oregon State University as a postdoc. Two years later, I worked as a postdoc until being promoted to Assistant Research Professor at the University of Maryland. In 2017, I came back to China and joined Tongji University.

Describe your current research (or areas of interest).

  • Batteries with high safety and high energy density
  • Wettability between liquid and solid Interface
  • High entropy ceramics

What are the major challenges facing early career chemists?

  • Defining your research area and then finding/solving the challenges in the area
  • Making sure your students are on the same page as you are
  • Raising funding

In your opinion, what are some of the current global challenges you think have to be addressed by innovative materials science and engineering research?

Safety, cost, and eco-friendliness of batteries.

Read His Research in ACS Publications Journals

Zhijun Ning

Tell us a little about yourself.

I received my Ph.D. from East China University of Science and Technology, majoring in applied chemistry. I finished my postdoc training at the Royal Institute of Technology and the University of Toronto, studying electrical engineering. I like to play basketball and other ball games.

Describe your current research (or areas of interest).

My current research focuses on the development of solution-processed optoelectronic materials and devices. I am interested in material design and synthesis, such as organic-inorganic hybrid materials and quantum dots, as well as their application for solar cells, photodetectors, light-emitting diodes, etc.

What are the major challenges facing early career chemists?

Having stable funding support and building your own research landmarks and reputation in the field.

In your opinion, what are some of the current global challenges you think have to be addressed by innovative materials science and engineering research?

The energy crisis and environmental pollution.

Read His Research in ACS Publications Journals

Vivek Polshettiwar

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am an Associate Professor in the Division of Chemical Sciences at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR). After earning my Ph.D. in 2005, I worked as a postdoc at École Nationale Supérieure de Chimie de Montpellier and as Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education research associate at the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). I also started an independent group of nanocatalysis at KAUST from 2009-2013.

Describe your current research (or areas of interest).

My group is working on the development of novel nanomaterials as catalysts to tackle climate change.

What are the major challenges facing early career chemists?

After spending 7-years in Indian academia, one of the key challenges that I faced/ am facing is the accessibility of instruments and facilities, such as TEM, solid-state NMR, etc.

In your opinion, what are some of the current global challenges you think have to be addressed by innovative materials science and engineering research?

Climate change hits a giant weak spot in human history. Disproportionate use (or misuse) of natural resources, including fossil fuels, created an extreme imbalance on planet earth. The first priority of many materials researchers is to take on this challenge by innovating new materials.

On the other hand, a sustainable way to solve the energy problem is to generate alternative energy sources such as renewal electricity by using solar cells or hydrogen by conducting photo- or electrocatalytic water splitting. New photocatalytic materials are the solution to this challenge.

Read His Research in ACS Publications Journals

Makhsud Saidaminov

Tell us a little about yourself.

As of January 2020, I am an Assistant Professor at the University of Victoria. Before this position, I was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Toronto and at KAUST. I received my Ph.D. from Moscow State University.

I grew up in a beautiful and mountainous Tajikistan.

Describe your current research (or areas of interest).

My areas of interest cover physics and chemistry of hybrid materials. In particular, we are interested in halide perovskites for energy applications, from sustainable harvesting of energy to its efficient consumption.

What are the major challenges facing early career chemists?

I traveled half of the globe to find a job that I love. I faced many expected and unexpected obstacles, but I was blessed to have caring family members, colleagues, and friends around me who made this journey enjoyable.

In my new role as an Assistant Professor, I am preparing to be challenged with funding, publishing, and work-life balance. I am curious about the unexpected challenges that my career has prepared ahead of me, but I am sure it will be an excellent opportunity to learn new skills.

In your opinion, what are some of the current global challenges you think have to be addressed by innovative materials science and engineering research?

I feel materials science and engineering (MSE) has a defining role to play in addressing our energy – and, hence, climate change – challenges. We need materials that efficiently harvest energy from renewable sources, store it in a small space, and transmit it with little or no loss. I also believe in the role of MSE in building a more equitable world, where additive manufacturing will print anything we need at a very low cost.

Read His Research in ACS Publications Journals

Sahar Sharifzadeh

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am an assistant professor at Boston University. My main appointments are materials science and engineering and electrical and computer engineering. I also have affiliations with the chemistry and physics departments.

Describe your current research (or areas of interest).

My research interests are focused on understanding and predicting the atomic-scale physical phenomena that drive the functional behavior of novel materials using first-principles theory. Specifically, I am interested in how imperfections introduced into organic and inorganic crystals (such as defects, interfaces, atomic and molecular vibrations) influence the electronic structure and excitonic properties.

In your opinion, what are some of the current global challenges you think have to be addressed by innovative materials science and engineering research?

I think materials science and engineering can address many of the challenges that we are facing, especially those that require next-generation technologies such as solar cells, carbon capture, or quantum computing. By developing new materials or understanding materials properties, we can help develop these technologies.

Read Her Research in ACS Publications Journals

Benjamin C.K. Tee

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am currently an Assistant Professor at the National University of Singapore (NUS). I received my Ph.D. at Stanford University. After having co-founded a company in medical devices with FDA clearance, I wanted to bring this experience back to academia and help train scientists and engineers who are passionate about bringing science to the real-world and user impact.

I am also quite a Trekkie and a Star Wars fan and enjoy wondering whether science fiction can become a scientific reality.

Describe your current research (or areas of interest).

I am currently working on the theme of nature-inspired sensorware. The natural world presents significant opportunities for scientists and engineers to emulate because of its efficient sophistication. My work heavily intersects nanoscience, chemistry, electronic materials, and electrical engineering.

One big effort in my team is to create self-healing electronic materials and devices that are skin-like. I am also interested in developing neuromorphic systems, which more closely mimics the human nervous system, such as the brain and nerves. These efforts converge towards sophisticatedly efficient artificial sensory systems.

What are the major challenges facing early career chemists/scientists?

I tend to see challenges more as opportunities. I think being an early career scientist is perhaps the most enjoyable phase because you get the freedom to decide how you want to define your work and how it contributes to society.

There are demands of a scientist within academia and industry that often requires other skill sets such as administration, lab construction, etc. These skills are often not exposed at an early stage of a scientific career. Hence, it is good for early-career chemists/scientists to seek out mentors that can provide guidance and advice within their network.

In your opinion, what are some of the current global challenges you think have to be addressed by innovative materials science and engineering research?

The fields of materials science and engineering define our technological eras and human societal development. I think technological progress has led to a dramatic rise in technological consumption. I think materials science and engineering can help us look at new ways we consume technology. For example, could a mobile phone be self-repairable, so we no longer need to dispose of them when they break or become obsolete? New and brave proposals may need to be explored that could take decades of work to realize. This is also why materials science and engineering will always be exciting: the potential to solve challenges on a global scale.

Read His Research in ACS Publications Journals

Wolfgang Zeier

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a faculty member in the Physikalisch-Chemisches Institut at Justus-Liebig-University Giessen. I’m an enthusiastic soccer fan. Sports and my family keep me in balance. I avoid taking things too seriously when it comes to research – fun and some degree of silliness is needed to encourage creativity and productivity.

Describe your current research.

My current research interests lie on the fundamental structure – property relationships in solids, focusing on thermoelectrics and ionic conductors, as well as the chemistry of solid-solid interfaces for the development of all-solid-state batteries. We often pursue the idea that changing the underlying bonding interaction in materials affects their functional properties and that there must be an experimental way to understand why.

What are the major challenges facing early career chemists?

It seems that over the last decades, science has become very fast-paced, and one needs to keep up early on. One is often being evaluated on metrics and number of publications, less on the creative science. At the same time, we need creative, out-of-the-box thinking, but funding opportunities are scarce without promising preliminary results.

In your opinion, what are some current global challenges you think must be addressed by innovative materials science and engineering research?

Without a doubt, our society faces the serious challenges of climate change as well as raw materials abundance and accessibility. I hope that innovative material science can help tailor functional materials that can help mitigate energy problems and find novel materials and processing routes for a sustainable future.

Read His Research in ACS Publications Journals

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