The Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry (CSMC) held its 2nd annual meeting in Eugene, OR on November 9th and 10th of this year. The meeting brought together research academics and industrial collaborators from all over the country to discuss the current progress of the Center as it moves towards its next review.
Day one began with opening remarks from Kimberly Espy, Dean of Graduate Research and Vice-president of Research and Innovation at the University of Oregon. She noted that “UO and OSU are all about sustainability” and that both students and faculty have a unique opportunity to meet current scientific challenges and “…tackle problems” through collaboration. Skip Rung, President and Executive Director of the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI), provided a few words on innovation and careers, emphasizing the new world of “self-employment”. As more large companies move towards purchasing innovation, start-ups are seeing growth while scientists are becoming their own bosses. ONAMI has been a proud supporter of innovation within the Center, helping to fund the CSMC spin-off companies Inpria and most recently Amorphyx.
The CSMC is comprised of 74 participants with close to one hundred percent participation in CSMC activities. Of these researchers, 28 students, 9 postdocs, and 19 faculty members are financially supported through the Center. In collaboration with industrial partners such as HP, IBM, and NIST this Phase II Center has set several goals for itself. Since the first annual meeting in October 2011 the CSMC has worked to develop new sustainable methods and techniques, transform the next generation of products and prepare students to become the next generation of green chemists. With the help of the Center Management Team, Science Advisory Board, Project Management Team, and Graduate Student and Postdoc Innovation Council, the CSMC has made incredible strides in achieving its goals.
Beyond research, the CSMC has made significant contributions to the development of students affiliated with the program. From the high school to post-graduate level, the CSMC has committed itself to creating and preparing the next generation of chemists and engineers for a sustainable future. Several graduate students have participated in fellowship and internship opportunities provided by the Center. Graduate students like T.J. Mustard (3rd year) and Wei Wang (5th year) have gained industrial experience with internships at large companies such as Corning as well as companies that have spun out of research from the Center, respectively. Not only are students getting first-hand experience in industry, but they are learning how to innovate and start new companies through market analysis in workshops hosted by the NCIIA and ecosVC.
Students more interested in academic positions are currently part of the Hermiston fellowship, which sends students to Hermiston High School to develop a curriculum for a college equivalent chemistry course. Geneva Laurita-Plankis (2nd year) and Anna Oliveri (4th year) have already done their first rotation at the high school. Kurtis Fairley (4th year), Lena Trotochaud (4th year), and Katie Wentz (4th year) are the next to participate. Milton Jackson, Jr. (3rd year) along with postdocs Dr. Chris Knutson and Dr. Matt Carnes have designed the coursework for a graduate-level course directed towards training incoming graduate students in CSMC methods of research which they are currently teaching.
SMaRT Camp is another education outreach platform Dr. Knutson has spearheaded. Dr. Knutson presented on how the Sustainable Materials Research Training Camp aims to initiate undergraduate researchers into the CSMC culture while providing graduate students and postdocs with mentorship experience. He also showed a video of one of the program’s success stories, Vadine Eugene, who stills talks to Chris about going to graduate school. The CSMC is involved in several other efforts aimed at community outreach. On the second Wednesday of every month CSMC participants hold a Science Pub in Albany, OR to talk about a general science topic or research from the Center. The CSMC is also partnering with the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) for both science pubs as well as a seminar in which the CSMC teaches OMSI staff the science of the Center while OMSI’s “Portal to the Public” will instruct CSMC fellows on effective forms of communication to the public.
The afternoon brought technical presentations from students as well as faculty discussing the research being done within the Center. Several talks highlighted the wide breadth of instrumentation available to the Center such as Small-Angle X-ray Scattering (SAXS) that Ed Elliot (5th year) from the University of Oregon (UO) spoke about which is a valuable characterization tool. Katie Wentz from Washington University in St. Louis and Anna Oliveri from UO discussed new breakthroughs using NMR (both have recent publications in the area). In a transition from synthesis to theory, Lindsay Wills (2nd year) from Oregon State University (OSU) talked about a new method of theory to understand the thermodynamic and kinetic properties of clusters while Dr. Ben Hanken, a postdoc at UC Berkeley discussed the predictability of crystallization in site-specific substitutions in transition metal polyoxometalates. New Center faculty member Dr. May Nyman, formerly of Sandia National Laboratory, talked about her previous research and its connection to current Center research.
Day two focused on thin-film design and nanopatterning, highlighted by Dr. Dave Johnson and the development of ferecrystals. These materials are inspired by using the building block concept of organic chemistry to create new, kinetically stable inorganic compounds. Fourth-year graduate student Lena Trotochaud stole the show with her new oxygen evolution catalyst that has the highest performance currently known. Science Advisory Board member Dr. Dave Mitzi spoke about the move towards CZTS photovoltaics precursors. The meeting ended with postdoc Dr. Rose Ruther and other OSU students discussing progress in the characterization of HfSOX precursors used in nanopatterning.
In all the annual meeting of the CSMC was a success, highlighting the achievements of faculty and students alike to fulfill the mission of the Center. Both in the lab and in the community the CSMC has shown the ability to conduct inspired research that will inspire others. Through innovation and transformation with new sustainable methods and techniques, the CSMC has proved itself a front-runner in the new scientific enterprise and as a leader in preparing students to be the next generation of chemists.