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ACS Award In Pure Chemistry

by Susan J. Ainsworth
February 10, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 6

Photo of Sara E. Skrabalak, an assistant professor and College of Arts & Sciences Dean's Fellow in the chemistry department at Indiana University, Bloomington

Sponsored by Alpha Chi Sigma Fraternity and Alpha Chi Sigma Educational Foundation

Sara E. Skrabalak first became intrigued with materials chemistry and nanoscience as an undergraduate researcher in William Buhro’s lab at Washington University in St. Louis. “His enthusiasm for advancing knowledge in the field was infectious and inspired me to go to graduate school, where I was really motivated by the potential for materials-based research to address social needs,” she says.

“While I continue to be inspired by the promise of that work, increasingly, I am excited by the process of discovery alone,” says Skrabalak, an assistant professor and College of Arts & Sciences Dean’s Fellow in the chemistry department at Indiana University, Bloomington.

“I love being the first to observe something or find new ways of thinking about scientific concepts when an unexpected result is encountered,” she adds. “I also love watching my students grow from the process of discovery.”

That passion for research has served Skra­balak well. At just 33, she is tackling “some of science’s most pressing challenges in nanomaterials synthesis, with applications in catalysis and chemical sensing,” says David P. Giedroc, professor and chair of the IU Bloomington chemistry department.

Skrabalak is “an exceptionally enthusiastic, productive, and creative chemist,” Giedroc says. “Her unique perspective and research accomplishments to date have allowed her to emerge as a new and energetic young leader in an otherwise crowded field.”

Through her doctoral training with Kenneth S. Suslick, professor of chemistry, materials science, and engineering at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and postdoctoral work with Younan Xia, now professor of chemistry at Georgia Institute of Technology, Skrabalak has developed a diverse background in the synthesis, characterization, and application of inorganic solids, Giedroc notes.

Skrabalak’s group has made important advances in the synthesis of novel nanomaterials with a high degree of structural precision and predictability using ultrasonic spray pyrolysis and new colloidal techniques, Giedroc says. “These nanomaterials represent unique platforms for studying how structure imparts functionality to solid materials,” he adds.

Skrabalak has developed new methodologies for the synthesis of very high quality and complex metal nanoparticles, says Raymond E. Schaak, DuPont Professor of Materials Chemistry at Pennsylvania State University.

Specifically, she has explored the controlled overgrowth of metals on the surfaces of metal nanoparticles, producing multicomponent bimetallic systems that many researchers worldwide are interested in as functional nanostructures, he says. “The level of synthetic sophistication in these systems and methods is among the highest that has been reported,” Schaak adds.

“Sara has contributed significantly to materials chemistry during her career as reflected by her excellent publication record,” notes Richard B. Kaner, distinguished professor of chemistry and of materials science and engineering at the George & Gerry Gregory Laboratory for Solid State Materials at the University of California, Los Angeles. She has already published more than 40 papers and several book chapters.

Skrabalak says “it is a huge honor” to receive the next ACS Award in Pure Chemistry and “be included among such an amazing list of scientists, whose innovations and creativity have been continued sources of inspiration to both me and my students.”

Skrabalak will present the award address before the Division of Inorganic Chemistry and the Division of Colloid & Surface Chemistry.


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