Chemistry Professors Awarded for Their Research and Mentoring

Two professors from NCAS’ Department of Chemistry were recognized recently for outstanding achievement.

Professor Michal Szostak won a Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award from the Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU).

Professor Huixin He received the American Chemical Society's Pro Bono Award for mentoring minority high-school students and encouraging them to pursue careers in chemistry as part of the North Jersey Project SEED Program.

Szostak, who specializes in organic chemistry, is only the second Rutgers faculty member to win the prestigious ORAU honor, instituted in 2008. It provides a $5,000 grant, which the university will match. Szostak is one of 35 recipients of the Powe Award this year, which provides seed money for research by investing in junior faculty within the consortium of 115 universities.

Szostak’s research focuses on developing a new method for the synthesis of chiral amines in order to design safer and more effective drugs.

“I am absolutely delighted to receive this prestigious award,” says Szostak. “I have been lucky to work with a very talented group of students at Rutgers. This award will provide a stimulus to develop new chemical transformations.”

Meanwhile, He specializes in nanoscale chemistry, focusing her research on carbon nanomaterials for application in battery technology and multifunctional drug-delivery systems.

She began working with the American Chemical Society's SEED Program back in 2005. Nearly 20 high-school students have done summer research internships in her lab over the last decade. The majority of these economically disadvantaged youth go on to college, often keeping in touch with He as they rack up awards of their own and move on to professional careers.

“I feel like we’re doing something important for these students—really affecting their lives,” says He. “My reward is seeing their happy faces when they learn something new or get into the college of their choice. It’s been wonderful for me and my graduate students, who also get great experience mentoring and working with these kids.”