Two ND Chemistry Professors Receive NSF CAREER Awards


Haifeng Gao and Vlad Iluc, assistant professors of chemistry and biochemistry, have been selected to receive National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program awards. These awards are the NSF’s most prestigious awards offered to junior faculty members and are given to recognize outstanding research, education, and integration of education and research. Prof. Gao and Prof. Iluc join the 14 other chemistry and biochemistry faculty members selected as CAREER award recipients.

Haifeng Gao

Prof. Gao, a faculty member since 2011, was selected for his proposal entitled “Develop Unprecedented Chain-growth Polymerization Method to Access Structurally Defined Hyperbranched Polymers.” While polymers are widely used, there is still a need to develop efficient and cost-effective methods that lead to polymers with precisely controlled structures and compositions.  Prof. Gao will develop a new polymerization method based on copper (Cu)-catalyzed azide-alkyne cycloaddition (CuAAC) polymerization to form polytriazole-based hyperbranched polymers in one pot. The proposed work also includes expanding polymer education at the university level and at the high school level and hosting a polymer-related symposium to promote the exchange of ideas between the academy and industry.

Vlad M. Iluc

Prof. Iluc, a faculty member since 2011, was selected for his proposal entitled “Nucleophilic, Radical, and Electrophilic Palladium Carbene Complexes: New Types of Reactivity for Palladium.” Prof. Iluc will develop new tools for promoting the selective reaction of hydrogen atoms which are bonded to common elements like silicon, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and boron. Leveraging metal-ligand cooperation in palladium catalysts, the proposed work will facilitate chemical transformations under mild conditions. This is expected to have an environmental and societal impact by offering new processes using water, alcohol, and amines, which are readily available chemical feedstocks. The propose work also will provide educational opportunities to children at Bashor Children’s Home in Goshen, IN and to other students from under-represented socio-economic groups.

The department congratulates Profs. Gao and Iluc on these accomplishments and looks forward to their continued success.