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American Chemical Society awards first grants to catalyze research in green and sustainable chemistry

New grant funding will encourage interdisciplinary research and accelerate sustainability-related innovations

by Christiana Briddell, ACS staff
May 23, 2024 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 102, Issue 16


The American Chemical Society Office of Sustainability announced in February the first recipients of grants funded via a new initiative of the ACS Campaign for a Sustainable Future. The initiative awards two types of grants to provide funding for early- and midcareer faculty who wish to establish research and teaching portfolios that will help develop chemicals and processes that aid in addressing the United Nations sustainable development goals.

“The Office of Sustainability sought to maximize the investment made by the ACS Board of Directors toward the sustainability grant program,” says Adelina Voutchkova, technical director of sustainable development for the Green Chemistry Institute in the Office of Sustainability at ACS. “The two grants are designed to be catalytic in expanding the green and sustainable chemistry research portfolios, the green chemistry courses offered in academic institutions across the US, and the industry-academia collaborations that are critical for accelerating innovations relevant to sustainability.”

The ACS Early Career Postdoctoral–Faculty Bridge Grant provides funding of $125,000 over 2 years to support the launch of an academic research group focused on green and sustainable chemistry. The funding supports a postdoctoral fellow within the new group and provides mentorship training to the faculty member who is the group’s principal investigator.

Six researchers are recipients of 2023 ECP-Faculty Bridge Grants:

Photo of Neil Dolinski.
Credit: Courtesy of ACS Green Chemistry Institute
Neil Dolinski

Neil Dolinski, an assistant professor at Columbia University, will be pursuing research on enhancing plastic waste recycling with reconfigurable dynamic polymers.

“By manipulating external cues, our group hopes to control the assembly characteristics of such dynamic polymers giving rise to materials that can exhibit large ranges of properties depending on their processing history, vastly expanding end-of-life options,” Dolinski says.

Before his appointment at Columbia, Dolinski was a postdoctoral researcher under Stuart Rowan, a professor of chemistry at the University of Chicago, and he completed his PhD under Craig Hawker, a chemistry professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Photo of Houqian Li.
Credit: Courtesy of ACS Green Chemistry Institute
Houqian Li

Houqian Li is a postdoctoral research associate under adviser George Huber, Richard L. Antoine Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Li received his PhD in chemical engineering from Washington State University under Yong Wang, Regents Professor in chemical engineering and bioengineering. He is pursuing research to simplify and further the circular economy by making better use of plastic waste. Li led work at the Chemical Upcycling of Waste Plastics, a multidisciplinary center focused on plastics upcycling, where he developed a new approach to convert waste plastic to higher-value chemicals through pyrolysis and hydroformylation chemistry. He plans to develop a course on the technologies of plastics recycling, aiming to bridge fundamental knowledge and practical applications.

Photo of Bryan James.
Credit: Courtesy of ACS Green Chemistry Institute
Bryan James

Bryan James is a postdoctoral researcher under Christopher Reddy, senior scientist, at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in a joint appointment under the departments of geochemistry and biology. His research proposal is “The Rationale Design of Nucleic Acids for Use as Multifunctional, Green Additives in Next-Generation Plastics.”

“[This work] involves designing and applying instrumentation for evaluating environmental degradation, assessing chemical and material toxicity using in vitro and in vivo bioassays, and developing tools and strategies to inform decision-making in product design,” James says.

He plans to use his interdisciplinary approaches in both research and teaching, where he would like to expand the discussion of green engineering in materials science and engineering coursework. James has a PhD in materials science and engineering from the University of Florida.

Photo of Jee Hee Jang.
Credit: Courtesy of ACS Green Chemistry Institute
Jee Hee Jang

Jee Hee Jang is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Rowan University.

“Our research focuses on designing efficient and economically viable catalytic processes to convert various carbon resources into sustainable fuels and chemicals,” Jang says.

Specifically, Jang is developing a product circulation strategy for enhanced economics and sustainability in biorefineries of waste resources. He is eager to teach students chemical reaction engineering through the lens of the principles of sustainability. Before starting at Rowan, Jang was a postdoctoral research associate with Gregg Beckham, a senior engineer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

“The work that Jee is proposing as a faculty member will have a major impact on the ability of lignin-centric biorefining methods to be realized at scale . . . and also actively engage undergraduate students in green chemistry–oriented research,” Beckham says.

Photo of Arthur Shih.
Credit: Courtesy of ACS Green Chemistry Institute
Arthur Shih

Arthur Shih is a postdoctoral scholar studying electrochemistry at Northwestern University under adviser Sossina Haile, a professor of materials science. Shih’s proposed research area is the electrochemical refinement of recycled iron via selective copper dissolution.

“Arthur has proposed to tackle a major source of greenhouse gas emission,” Haile says.

Shih plans to instill students with a holistic understanding of sustainable solutions that are economically viable and would like to include life-cycle analysis in his upper-level courses. Shih graduated from Purdue University with a PhD in chemical engineering and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Leiden University under Marc T. M. Koper, a professor of chemistry.

Photo of Katherine Shulenberger.
Credit: Courtesy of ACS Green Chemistry Institute
Katherine Shulenberger

Katherine Shulenberger, an assistant professor at Brandeis University, will focus on heavy-metal-free nanocrystals for clean energy generation.

“The use and conversion of energy sits at the center of our daily lives,” Shulenberger says. “I always find myself wondering how we can find better sources of energy, more renewable and sustainable approaches, and simultaneously ensure our sources of renewable energy originate from sustainable and nontoxic materials. These questions motivate the systems I study in my lab.”

Shulenberger received her PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the research group led by Mougi Bawendi and William Tisdale. She completed her postdoctoral research under Gordana Dukovic, a professor of chemistry at the University of Colorado Boulder.

The ACS Principal Investigator Development in Sustainability Grant awards a onetime sum of $50,000 that supports the initiation of cross-sector and interdisciplinary research through the provision of support that allows faculty to spend a sabbatical in industry, a national laboratory, or an academic group that focuses on a different but complementary field of research.

The six recipients of the 2023 grants are the following:

Ambarish Kulkarni of the University of California, Davis, for the research proposal “Revolutionizing the Transportation Industry Using Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carriers”

Jakub Kostal of the George Washington University for the proposal “A Systems Approach for the Discovery of Sustainable Pesticides from Biobased Feedstock”

Nicola Helen Perry of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign for the project “Visualizing Nanoscale 3D Ion and Defect Chemical Kinetics in Sustainable Energy Materials and Devices: Advancing Tandem Isotope-Exchange Tomography and Spectrometry”

Yujie Sun of the University of Cincinnati for the project “Developing Green Electro-/photo-enzymatic Catalysis for Sustainable Organic Synthesis”

Christopher Wirth of Case Western Reserve University for the project “Sustainable Formulation of Packaging Materials: Films, Packaging, and Coatings”

Yang Yang of the University of California, Santa Barbara, for the work “Sustainable Photobiocatalytic Synthesis of Noncanonical Amino Acids under Continuous Flow Conditions.”

Find more information about these grants by visiting


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