UD’s LaShanda Korley Appointed U.S. Science Envoy

UD’s LaShanda Korley Appointed U.S. Science Envoy

Esteemed engineer to travel the world to advance science and technology cooperation with U.S.

LaShanda Korley, Distinguished Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Delaware, has been appointed a U.S. Science Envoy for 2023. The announcement was made by the U.S. Department of State on Tuesday, Dec. 6.

Through the Science Envoy Program, eminent U.S. scientists and engineers leverage their expertise and networks to forge connections and identify opportunities for sustained international cooperation, championing innovation and demonstrating America’s scientific leadership and technical ingenuity.

Korley is among seven distinguished scientists who will begin service as U.S. Science Envoys in January 2023. Like their 23 predecessors, these esteemed scientists are approved by the Secretary of State and will engage internationally at the citizen and government levels to enhance relationships between other nations and the United States, develop partnerships and improve collaboration.

According to the U.S. Department of State, Science Envoys leverage their international leadership, influence and expertise in priority countries and regions to advance solutions to shared challenges. They travel as private citizens and help inform the State Department, other U.S. government agencies and the scientific community about opportunities for science and technology cooperation.

Korley is a global leader in applying biologically inspired principles and approaches to the sustainable use of polymer-based materials, including plastics. She is the director of the Center for Plastics Innovation, an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the U.S. Department of Energy that is working to chemically transform plastic waste — a pollution problem plaguing the world — into fuels, lubricants and other valuable products.

She also leads Bio-Inspired Materials and Systems, a global project funded through the National Science Foundation’s Partnerships for International Research and Education, which aims to develop programmable materials for soft robotic systems, and she is co-director of the UD Center for Hybrid, Active, and Responsive Materials, an NSF Materials Research and Science Center that is driving materials innovation in fields ranging from biomedicine to cybersecurity.

The recipient of numerous awards and honors, Korley is a fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Chemical Society Division of Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering, and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. She received her bachelor’s degrees from Clark Atlanta University and the Georgia Institute of Technology and her doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She completed postdoctoral studies at both MIT and Cornell.

Joining Korley in the 2023 cohort of U.S. Science Envoys are Drew Harvell (Cornell University), Jessica Gephart (American University), Christine Kreuder Johnson (University of California, Davis), Prineha Narang (UCLA), Frances Seymour ( World Resources Institute) and Kyle Whyte (University of Michigan). The State Department announcement has more information about the other envoys.

 Photo illustration by Jeffrey C. Chase  

A ‘Hat Trick’ of Honors for UD’s Jayaraman

A ‘Hat Trick’ of Honors for UD’s Jayaraman

Three societies recognize her contributions to physics, chemistry, chemical engineering

With a passion for polymer research and teaching, Arthi Jayaraman of the University of Delaware often finds herself wearing a lot of hats — figuratively, at least.

“My research has me putting on different hats,” said Jayaraman, Centennial Term Professor for Excellence in Research and Education in the College of Engineering. “Sometimes I have to put on the physicist hat, sometimes the chemist hat, and always the engineering hat.”

In the past year, professional societies in all three disciplines have recognized her work and its value to their field.

  • The American Physical Society, which includes many of the world’s most prominent physicists, in March named Jayaraman as a fellow, an honor bestowed on those who have made exceptional contributions to physics. Such fellowships are awarded to fewer than 0.5% of APS’ more than 55,000 members in any given year.
  • The American Chemical Society selected Jayaraman to serve as deputy editor of its new, fully open-access journal ACS Polymer Au (Gold).
  • The American Institute of Chemical Engineers this summer announced that Jayaraman would receive the 2021 Impact Award, administered by its Computational Molecular Science and Engineering Forum (COMSEF), at the AIChE annual meeting in November.

Jayaraman leads a computational materials research lab as a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and materials science at UD.

She also loves to teach, loves to be in front of a crowd of eager learners and is devoted to sharing science with the broadest possible audience, making quality science communication a priority.

“I’m passionate about science, education and training our next best scientists,” she said. “I also believe that the science we create should be shared. I share that in my classroom and with my research community through our papers. I also strongly support that dissemination with a broader community around the world. This motivated me to take on this new editorial role in the new open-access journal ACS Polymer Au.”

What drives her in all these roles is her love for polymers, substances made up of long chains of uniform molecules. They are everywhere and make amazing building blocks, whether they are produced naturally (silk, hair, DNA for example) or synthetically (plastics, for example).

“They can be in tires, in rocket ships, on a plane and they can be designed to carry a drug into the human body,” she said. “We’re all made of biopolymers, chain molecules that have a unique chemistry programmed in.”

Working at different scales requires the kind of expertise her team has.

“Polymers have non-trivial structures at different scales — Angstrom scale, nanoscale and micron scale,” she said. “To study these materials computationally, one has to select or develop the right model that captures that structure at the scale of interest. One model doesn’t fit all, and that adaptability is something my group works on.”

Her computational expertise pulls many aspects of scientific inquiry together, but she especially cherishes her collaborations with two kinds of researchers, she said — those who synthesize polymers and those who characterize the materials in a wet lab.

One close-to-home example is Jayaraman’s collaboration with UD’s Kristi Kiick, Blue and Gold Distinguished Professor of Materials Science and Engineering. She worked with Kiick to characterize protein-like polymers, predict their stability and thermodynamic behavior in specific conditions and ensure they will behave the way Kiick and her team want them to behave in their biomedical research.

That points the way to new materials and better materials.

Computational skills are essential to advances in research and Jayaraman’s excellence in that work is reflected in the honors received from these three independent scientific societies.

Recognizing Jayaraman’s research accomplishments, APS cited her “insightful development and use of molecular modeling, simulation and theoretical studies of structure and thermodynamics in polymer nanocomposites, conjugated polymer blends, nucleic acids and thermoresponsive peptide-polymer conjugates.”

The Impact Award from AIChE COMSEF recognizes outstanding research in computational molecular science and engineering, including methods and applications.

The editing position with ACS Polymers Au reflects her leadership in polymers research and her communication skill. She and Associate Editor Prof. Harm-Anton Klok of the Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) in Lausanne, Switzerland, just released the first issue of the journal.

“Arthi is the complete package,” said Jan Genzer, S. Frank and Doris Culberson Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at North Carolina State, who nominated her for the APS fellowship and was a co-adviser for Jayaraman when she was a doctoral student at N.C. State. “She mentors her students and collaborates with a large group of people. Many of her collaborators are experimentalists and that’s very atypical for people who do simulation and modeling. She is highly sought after by my colleagues who do experiments.”

The daughter of an engineer and an educator, Jayaraman said she loved computer programming when she was growing up in Madras, India, and that lifelong skill along with her interest in chemical sciences has served her well.

“My parents were always supportive and were a driving force for me and my sister, who is an accomplished researcher in biophysics,” Jayaraman said. “I was fortunate to have that push and encouragement from my parents. We came from a lower-middle class family. My parents prioritized our education over luxury and that paid off.”

Jayaraman earned her bachelor of engineering degree in chemical engineering from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science in Pilani, India, and her doctorate in chemical and biomolecular engineering at N.C. State. She did postdoctoral research at the University of Illinois-Urbana. Before joining UD in 2014, she was an assistant professor and Patten faculty fellow at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Her other awards include the Department of Energy (DOE) Early Career Research Award and young investigator awards from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) and the American Chemical Society (ACS).

| Photo by Evan Krape |

UD Ranked Among ‘Best Value Colleges’

UD Ranked Among ‘Best Value Colleges’

Princeton Review, Money cite UD for return on investment

The University of Delaware is among 209 higher education institutions cited by The Princeton Review for having the highest ROI (return on investment) ratings. In addition, a 2020 Money listing of “Best Colleges for Your Money” placed UD among the top universities in the nation.

The Princeton Review based its rankings on more than 40 data points, covering academic offerings, cost/financial aid, graduation rates, career placement and student debt, as well as alumni salary levels and job satisfaction. More than 650 schools were surveyed overall.

According to Rob Franek, editor-in-chief of The Princeton Review, “The colleges that we designate as our ‘Best Values’ this year are truly a select group: they comprise only about 1.2% of the four-year undergraduate institutions in the U.S. These exceptional schools differ in many ways, yet they are alike in that all offer outstanding academics and excellent career services. As important to today’s college applicants and their parents: These colleges have a comparatively low sticker price and/or generous financial aid offerings.”

The Princeton Review notes, “The 200 we chose as our 2021 Best Value Colleges are in our opinion truly the most exceptional in the nation at delivering great academics, affordable cost and great career foundations. We strongly recommend and salute the colleges we present here for all that they do to help their students with need afford to attend them while delivering an amazing college experience that’s worth every penny.”

In its “Best Colleges for Your Money” listing for 2020, Money ranked UD 27th among the top 50 public colleges and 41st out of the more than 700 four-year colleges it studied.

Data collection and analysis for the seventh annual rankings were led by researchers from the American Institutes for Research. Schools were ranked on 27 factors in three categories: quality of education, affordability and outcomes.

Learn more about the University of Delaware on its Facts and Figures page. For details on other rankings and additional acclaims, visit UD Institutional Research’s Rankings page.

| Photo by Evan Krape |

Young Investigator Award

Young Investigator Award

Engineering professor honored for excellence in molecular beam research

Periods of history are often defined by the materials used to make critical tools — from the stone age to the bronze age to today — a period some experts regard as the silicon age. Silicon is used in semiconductors and other technologies that are critical for computing and communications. The development of sophisticated new materials could accelerate further societal progress.

A University of Delaware professor is being recognized as a leading expert in molecular beam epitaxy, a technique used to make promising, novel materials.

Stephanie Law, associate professor of materials science and engineering and co-director of the UD Materials Growth Facility, received the Young Investigator Award from the 21st International Conference on Molecular Beam Epitaxy 2020.

Molecular beam epitaxy is a method used to grow materials, such as crystals or thin films, by depositing layers of molecules or atoms one at a time. Molecular beam epitaxy enables the creation of novel, precisely designed materials for use in many applications, such as ultra-sensitive gas sensing or new qubits for quantum computing.

Law was selected for the Young Investigator Award from the 21st International Conference on Molecular Beam Epitaxy 2020 for advances in the growth of novel optical materials including heavily doped semiconductors, topological insulators, and other van der Waals materials. She was selected for this award by leaders in the field of molecular beam epitaxy — and she is fast becoming a world leader in the subject herself.

Her research group focuses on improving the quality of materials used for infrared and terahertz optics and plasmonics. “The techniques we have developed for good material growth are applicable to a wide range of related systems,” she said.

What’s more, exciting new possibilities are on the horizon. The Materials Growth Facility at UD, which already features an array of world-class equipment for nanofabrication, growth characterization and monitoring, microscopy and calibrations, is expanding. New funding through UD’s Center for Hybrid, Active and Responsive Materials, an NSF-funded Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSEC), will enable the purchase of a new sputtering system. Funds from a private foundation will enable the purchase of a new electron beam evaporator.

“These are significant new capabilities that will allow us to grow new materials and complex material stacks for applications in infrared and terahertz optics, quantum materials, and hybrid devices,” said Law.

Law will accept the Young Investigator Award and share highlights from her research group in a presentation at the next International Conference on Molecular Beam Epitaxy, slated to be held in September 2021 in Mexico.

This accolade is one of many for Law, a widely recognized scholar in molecular beam epitaxy. She has been honored with the Peter Mark Memorial Award from the American Vacuum Society (2019), Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (2019), Early Career Award from the U.S. Department of Energy (2017) and North American Molecular Beam Epitaxy Young Investigator Award (2016).

Law earned her doctorate in physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2012 and did postdoctoral research there in electrical and computer engineering before joining the UD faculty in 2014.

Law describes creating materials of tomorrow one atom at a time in this video.

| Photo by Evan Krape | Video by UD Media Services |

High Honors

High Honors

Prof. Thomas H. Epps, III named to American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering College of Fellows

Thomas H. Epps, III, the Allan and Myra Ferguson Distinguished Chair of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Delaware, has been named to the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) College of Fellows.

Epps, who has a joint appointment in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and an affiliated appointment in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, was nominated, reviewed and elected by peers and members of the College of Fellows for outstanding contributions to the self-assembly of polymeric materials for drug delivery and gene therapy applications.

The AIMBE College of Fellows consists of the top 2% of medical and biological engineers in the United States. Epps will be inducted along with 174 colleagues who make up the AIMBE Fellow Class of 2021 at a formal ceremony during AIMBE’s 2021 Annual Event on March 26.

“I am honored to be considered among the leaders in medical and biological engineering,” said Epps.  “I am immensely proud to be elected and to join other colleagues at UD, and elsewhere, who have received this honor.” UD has a strong tradition of biological engineering, and other UD faculty members who belong to AIMBE’s College of Fellows include Thomas Buchanan, Dawn Elliott, Jill Higginson, Kristi Kiick, LaShanda Korley, Kelvin Lee, Abraham Lenhoff, David Martin, Terry Papoutsakis and Millie Sullivan.

“Prof. Epps’ election as a fellow of the AIMBE recognizes his tremendous gifts toward understanding applying polymer materials to a diverse range of applications, including living systems,” said Eric Furst, Chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. “This work is relevant to engineering solutions to healthcare grand challenges, including the current pandemic. His colleagues frequently comment on his incredible versatility and how it stems from his commitment to collaborating, his exceptional attention to detail and understanding of how polymer molecular phenomena translate into different environments, and his commitment to graduate education that fosters the hard work and ideas of students and trainees.”

Polymeric materials

Epps is an expert in polymeric materials for a wide variety of applications. For example, he has uncovered important insights about how nanocarriers used to deliver cancer treatment work and how to design them better.  For this work, he has collaborated with colleagues such as Professor Millie Sullivan and students such as alumna Victoria Muir, now a doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania.

Epps directs the $18 million UD Center for Hybrid, Active, and Responsive Materials (UD CHARM), which will drive forward fundamental materials science research with the potential to enable critical innovations in biomedicine, sensing and more. The center is co-directed by LaShanda Korley, Distinguished Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

Epps is also the deputy director for the Center for Plastics Innovation, an Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC) that aims to upcycle plastic waste into useful products, such as next-generation polymers. Korley is the center’s director.

Epps, who joined the UD faculty in 2006, has received numerous honors, such as the Percy L. Julian Distinguished Award from the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (2020), the John H. Dillon Medal from APS (2016), the Owens-Corning Early Career Award from AIChE (2015), the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) (2009), the Air Force Young Investigator Award (2008), the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers Lloyd N. Ferguson Young Scientist Award (2007), and a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award (2007), among others.

Epps also is active in the American Chemical Society, American Institute of Chemical Engineers, American Physical Society (Polymers Division), and Sigma Xi. He was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 2017 and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (FRSC) in 2018. He is a member of the Department of Energy Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee (BESAC) and an associate editor for the journal Science Advances.

| Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson | Illustration by Joy Smoker |

New AAAS Fellows

New AAAS Fellows

UD Professors Kristi Kiick, Eric Furst honored for scientific contributions

Kristi Kiick and Eric Furst of the University of Delaware have been named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers.

This year, 489 members have been elected AAAS Fellows because of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. The newest class of AAAS Fellows will be formally announced in the AAAS News and Notes section of the journal Science on Nov. 27, 2020, and a virtual induction ceremony will be held on Feb. 13, 2021.

Kiick and Furst were elected as part of the AAAS Section on Engineering. They both joined UD’s faculty in 2001.

Kristi Kiick

Kiick, Blue and Gold Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, was elected as an AAAS Fellow for contributions to the synthesis and application of peptide-based self-assembled materials for tissue engineering and drug delivery, and administrative leadership at the University of Delaware.

“The AAAS has an illustrious history of outreach and advocacy both for and within the sciences. Their activities are critical in supporting the science and scientists who are addressing increasingly vexing global challenges,” said Kiick. “I am honored and humbled to have been elected as a Fellow, and delighted to be elected along with Eric Furst, with whom I’ve collaborated for many years.”

Among other projects, Kiick leads collaborative research to create new drug delivery systems to treat diseases that affect connective tissue and advancing the development of therapies to treat the eye and gut.

From 2011 to 2019, Kiick served as the deputy dean of the College of Engineering, working to develop interdisciplinary graduate and research partnerships and strengthen the college’s intellectual and physical infrastructure. Kiick will become Chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering on Dec. 1, 2020.

A Fellow of the American Chemical Society and a member of the National Academy of Inventors, Kiick has published nearly 175 articles, book chapters, and patents, and has delivered over 200 invited and award lectures. Kiick’s honors have included several awards (Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation New Faculty, Beckman Young Investigator, National Science Foundation CAREER award, DuPont Young Professor, and Delaware Biosciences Academic Research Award, Leverhulme Trust Visiting Professor, Fulbright Scholar) as well as induction as a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering and of the American Chemical Society Division of Polymer Chemistry. She also serves on the advisory and editorial boards for multiple international journals and research organizations.

Eric Furst

Furst, professor and chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, was elected as an AAAS Fellow for seminal contributions to a range of topics in soft matter science and engineering, with a particular focus on colloid science and rheology (a branch of science dealing with the deformation and flow of matter).

For example, his research answers questions such as why paste materials stiffen as they age and what makes gels elastic. Furst and Kiick have even collaborated on several projects in soft materials.

“Kristi and I started at UD together and forged some great science together over the years,” he said. “It is a distinct honor to be recognized along with her by the AAAS. The AAAS mission to advance cooperation in the sciences and support scientific research, education, and outreach for the betterment of all humanity is deeply shared among my colleagues in the Department and College.”

Furst is a Fellow of the American Chemical Society and a recipient of many awards and honors, including the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal, Award for Top Application from the International Space Station from the American Astronautical Society, Society of Rheology Publication Award, DuPont Young Professor, and National Science Foundation CAREER award. He is the author of Microrheology by Oxford University Press and more than 115 articles and book chapters. He has delivered nearly 150 invited and award lectures, and he serves on the advisory and editorial boards for multiple international journals and research organizations, including the American Institute of Physics Board of Directors.

The tradition of AAAS Fellows began in 1874. UD has 16 other AAAS Fellows, including eight engineering faculty.

| Photo composite by Christian Derr |