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Click on an image to read the BIOGRAPHY and the ABSTRACT of each Keynote Speaker.
Eric A. Appel is an Assistant Professor of Materials Science & Engineering at Stanford University. He received his BS in Chemistry and MS in Polymer Science from California Polytechnic in San Luis Obispo, CA. Eric performed his MS thesis research with Dr Jim Hedrick and Dr Robert Miller on the synthesis of polymers for drug delivery applications at the IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, CA. He then obtained his PhD in Chemistry with Prof. Oren A. Scherman in the Melville Laboratory for Polymer Synthesis at the University of Cambridge. His PhD research focused on the preparation of dynamic and stimuli-responsive supramolecular polymeric materials. For his PhD work, Eric was the recipient of the Jon Weaver PhD prize from the Royal Society of Chemistry and a Graduate Student Award from the Materials Research Society. Upon graduating from Cambridge in 2012, he was awarded a National Research Service Award from the NIH (NIBIB) and a Wellcome Trust Postdoctoral Fellowship to work with Prof. Robert Langer at MIT on the development of supramolecular biomaterials for applications in tissue engineering and drug delivery. During his post-doctoral work, he received a Margaret A. Cunningham Immune Mechanisms in Cancer Research Award. His work at Stanford focuses on the development of biomimetic polymeric materials that can be used as tools to better understand fundamental biological processes and to engineer advanced healthcare solutions. In particular, the Appel lab’s research targets immunoengineering applications in infectious disease and cancer, as well as drug delivery applications in the treatment of diabetes. He has been awarded a Hellman Faculty Scholarship, a Junior Faculty Development Award through the American Diabetes Association, a Research Scholar Grant from the American Cancer Society, a Research Starter Fellowship through the PhRMA Foundation, and had the pleasure of participating in the Young Investigator Award Symposium from the Polymeric Materials Science & Engineering division of the American Chemical Society.
Supramolecular (Bio)materials: From Fundamentals to Advanced Healthcare Solutions
Supramolecular biomaterials exploit rationally-designed non-covalent interactions to enable innovative approaches to drug formulation and delivery. Because of their dynamic and self-assembled nature, this class of biomaterials provide a facile route to the encapsulation and controlled delivery of active ingredients over extended timescales while being easily manufactured and deployed. The dynamic cross-links within these materials allows viscous flow under shear stress (shear-thinning) and rapid recovery of mechanical properties when the applied stress is relaxed (self-healing), affording minimally-invasive implantation in vivo though direct injection or catheter delivery to tissues. In this talk, we will discuss the development of a hydrogel platform exploiting dynamic multivalent interactions between biopolymers and nanoparticles. The unique entropically-driven interactions responsible for crosslinking in this platform enable these materials to exhibit alternative temperature-dependent mechanical properties than typically observed in physical hydrogels. Moreover, the hierarchical construction of these biphasic hydrogels allows for multiple therapeutic compounds to be entrapped simultaneously and delivered with identical release profiles, regardless of their chemical make-up, over user-defined timeframes ranging from days to months. These materials enable novel approaches to immunomodulatory therapies such as vaccines and cancer immunotherapies that rely on precise and sustained release of complex mixtures of compounds. We demonstrate that these unique characteristics enable the development of vaccines that greatly enhance the magnitude, quality, and durability of the humoral immune response. Overall, this presentation will demonstrate the design of simple yet sophisticated biomaterials affording unique opportunities in the formulation and controlled release of active pharmaceutical compounds to enable next-generation therapies.
Emily Pentzer is an Associate Professor in the department of chemistry and the department of materials science and engineering at Texas A&M University. She received a BS in chemistry from Butler University (2005) and PhD in chemistry from Northwestern University (2010), where her thesis focused on preparing and polymerizing unsaturated lactones and lactams. She then worked with Professor Todd Emrick in the Polymer Science and Engineering Department at UMass Amherst where she focused on the synthesis and assembly of electronically active materials for organic photovoltaics. In 2013, Dr. Pentzer started her independent career as an assistant professor of chemistry at Case Western Reserve University and she moved to Texas A&M in 2019.
The Pentzer Lab’s research centers on developing new polymeric materials and assemblies as a route to understand structure-property-application relationships and access functions not possible with current state-of-the-art systems. Her group works on the encapsulation of “active” liquids and gases, polymer-based data storage in a quaternary code, and additive manufacturing for multifunctional materials. Dr. Pentzer regularly participates in events aimed at professional development of students and post-docs and facilitating their transition to vibrant STEM careers. She has received several awards including the NSF CAREER award (2016), PMSE Young Investigator Award (2017), CWRU Faculty Diversity Excellence Award (2019), and ACS WCC Rising Star Award (2021). She serves as an Associate Editor for Polymer Chemistry and was elected Alt. Councilor for the Polymer Division (POLY) of the American Chemical Society in 2020.
Polymerizations in Pickering Emulsions as a Route to Hybrid Materials
Pickering emulsions, or those stabilized by solid particles, provide a distinct template for the production of composite structures which combine the properties of the particles, the droplets, and any additional components such as polymer. This presentation will cover the use of Pickering emulsions stabilized by 2D particles (i.e., nanosheets) to prepare capsules with core of ionic liquid or phase change material. Here, modified graphene oxide nanosheets are used to stabilize non-aqueous emulsions and polymer deposition or interfacial polymerization is used to give the capsules integrity. The presentation will also address the use of transition metal carbides and nitrides, an emerging class of solution processable 2D materials termed MXenes, as Pickering surfactants and the production of monolithic structures by tailored polymerization strategies. Application of these hybrids in gas sequestration, thermal energy storage, and electromagnetic interference (EMI) shielding will be highlighted.
Athina Anastasaki was born and raised in Athens, Greece and obtained her B.S. in Chemistry at the University of Athens. She then commenced her PhD studies at the University of Warwick under the supervision of Prof. Dave Haddleton and graduated in late 2014 with the Jon Weaver award for the best PhD in polymer chemistry in the UK. In early 2015, she accepted a Monash-Warwick research fellow position between the Pharmaceutical department at Monash University and the University of Warwick, jointly supervised by Professor Thomas Davis and Professor Dave Haddleton. She then received an Elings Fellowship, followed by a Global Marie Curie Fellowship, to conduct research alongside Professor Craig Hawker at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Since January 2019, she is an Assistant Professor at ETH and her group focuses on fundamental polymer synthesis and self-assembly predominantly in the area of controlled radical polymerization. Athina has co-authored over 100 peer-reviewed publications (h-index=45, over 5000 citations) and has been the recipient of an ERC starting Grant, the Hanwha-Total IUPAC Young Scientist Award and the Golden Owl award, which is in recognition of outstanding faculty teaching. Athina also currently serves as an Associate Editor in the RSC journal Polymer Chemistry.
Making and Unmaking Polymers by Controlled Radical Polymerization
Controlled radical polymerization (CRP) is widely used to prepare a broad range of polymeric materials for diverse applications in various fields. One of the most important property of CRP polymers is the ability to maintain high end-group fidelity throughout the polymerization. However, a common misconception in the field is that high end-group fidelity and high dispersity are typically mutually exclusive characteristics. This is a significant limitation as both high and low dispersity polymers exhibit unique properties and functions and as such dispersity is a key parameter in material design. In this talk I will present a straightforward and versatile batch method based on reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) polymerization to tailor molecular weight distributions for a wide range of monomer classes. Control over dispersity is achieved by mixing two RAFT agents with sufficiently different chain-transfer activities in various ratios, affording polymers with monomodal molecular weight distributions over a broad dispersity range. Notably, high end-group fidelity was demonstrated through the preparation of well-defined block copolymers regardless of the initial homopolymer dispersity. Controlling monomer sequence in synthetic macromolecules is another major challenge in polymer science but synthetic approaches that can simultaneously control both sequence and dispersity remain experimentally unattainable. In the second part of this talk, I will discuss a strategy which enables the synthesis of sequence-controlled multiblocks with concurrent control over both sequence and dispersity. Although high end-group fidelity is crucial to facilitate the synthesis of well-defined block copolymers, it has rarely been exploited to reverse CRP and regenerate the monomer. In the final part of the talk I will discuss a near-quantitative and catalyst-free depolymerization of various linear, bulky, crosslinked, and functional polymethacrylates made by RAFT polymerization. Importantly, the depolymerization product can be utilized to either reconstruct the linear polymer or create an entirely new insoluble gel that can also be subjected to depolymerization.
 R. Whitfield, N. P. Truong, D. Messmer, K. Parkatzidis, M. Rolland, A. Anastasaki Chem. Sci., 2019, 10, 8724-8734
 R. Whitfield, K. Parkatzidis, T. Junkers, N. P. Truong, A. Anastasaki: Chem 2020, 6, 1340-1352
 M. N. Antonopoulou, R. Whitfield, N. P. Truong, D. Wyers, S. Harrisson, T. Junkers, A. Anastasaki, Nat. Chem. 2021, 14, 304-312
 H. S. Wang, N. P. Truong, Z. Pei, M. L. Coote, A. Anastasaki, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2022, 144, 4678-4684
Francesca Kerton is a professor of Green Chemistry at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada and has a global reputation for her pioneering research on sustainable chemistry related to the oceans. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and has gained international recognition for her significant contributions to this field and has received awards including the Dean’s Distinguished Scholar Medal, the 2019 Canadian Green Chemistry and Engineering Award, and the School of Graduate Studies ROCKstar Supervisor Award due to her excellence in green chemistry research and graduate student training. She performs research in the area of carbon dioxide utilization and is part of an NSERC-funded training network “Centre for Innovation and Research on Carbon Utilization in Industrial Technologies”. Her group also studies both natural (e.g. chitin, collagen) and synthetic polymers (e.g. polyesters, polycarbonates), and they have been investigating their degradation under chemical and biological conditions. She is a member of the recently established Atlantic Canada Environmental and Sustainable Chemistry Centre.
Making Degradable Polymers and Materials from Carbon Dioxide and Waste Biomass
Materials and polymer chemists can use the principles of green chemistry to reduce their impacts on the environment by incorporating renewable feedstocks and designing for degradation. This talk will explore a number of aspects of our recent research in this regard.
The Kerton group has been studying homogeneous iron, boron, and aluminum catalysts in ring-opening copolymerization reactions targeting greener polymer systems. We have developed structure-activity relationships in iron-catalyzed epoxide-carbon dioxide copolymerizations. We have demonstrated enhanced selectivity control in polyester and polycarbonate formation by employing morpholine hemi-labile groups to protect aluminum catalytic centres. In metal-free catalysis, we have shown that arylboranes can be used as catalysts, in the presence of a suitable co-catalyst or as a pre-formed Lewis acid/base adduct, to prepare either cyclic organic carbonate or polycarbonate products from epoxides and carbon dioxide. Following on from this work, we have investigated tandem copolymerization-polymer functionalization reactions where the catalytic borane can hydrosilylate pendent olefin groups along the polycarbonate chain. These catalyst systems can also copolymerize cyclic anhydrides with epoxides including bioderived limonene-oxide. Due to differences in reactivity between epoxides and anhydrides, block polyester-carbonates can be produced. We have also shown that the polycarbonate blocks can be depolymerized catalytically opening the door towards future repurposing and the circular economy.
We have also been investigating green approaches to biomass conversion and due to our proximity to the ocean, we have created a niche focused on ocean-sourced biomass. We have been able to make bio-derived non-isocyanate polyurethanes from epoxidized waste fish oil, carbon dioxide and bio-derived amines. Preliminary biodegradation results show that fungi and bacteria can grow on their surfaces to enhance degradation.
Julien Gigault is a CNRS research scientist in the TAKUVIK laboratory, an international laboratory of the French CNRS and Université Laval (Québec City, Canada). As an environmental and analytical chemist, he dedicated his research to the source, fate, and impact of nanoscale materials in the environment, especially in Polar areas. Since 2014, he focuses his research on the anthropogenic or accidental nanoparticles’ presence and effects in the environment. In 2016, he started to demonstrate the existence of nanoplastics in the environments resulting from the degradation of plastic debris. His research group is developing analytical strategies to detect these nanoplastics in the environment and their impact. Based on the in-situ measurement, the second part of his work consists of developing experimental approaches to understand better the transport pathways and the life-cycle of the anthropogenic nanoparticles in the environment, such as nanoplastics.
Nanoplastics' fate in the real world: presence, source, and impact?
Plastics are the third most-produced material on Earth by mass. Due principally to the mismanagement of waste, plastic ends up in an environment where they are finally fragmented to reach the microscale. Plastic debris is now an integral part of the biogeochemical cycle and has been recently proposed as a marker of the Anthropocene. Recently we developed a new analytical strategy to demonstrate the potential presence of nanoscale plastics, i.e., nanoplastics, in the environment. We defined nanoplastics as colloidal species presenting a Brownian motion in the aqueous ecosystems. Compared to microplastics that float or sediment due to their density, nanoplastics fate is governed by their hetero-aggregation with the chemical and biological species present in the various ecosystem where they passed through. However, there is a lack of data concerning their presence, source, and transformation pathways. These data are cruelly needed to evaluate the potential threat better that nanoplastics could represent within this century. But detecting their presence in the environment requires raising several analytical challenges due to their extremely small size, trace concentration, and carbon-based composition.
Moreover, evaluating their impact is not related to the plastic concentration but principally on which contaminants nanoplastics could carrier on from the environment to the organisms. My presentation aims to present the environmental risk associated with nanoplastics. While the analytical method to identify and characterize their occurrence will be presented, I will focus on the challenge of evaluating the nanoplastics' transportation, transformation, and reactivity in the environment.
Christopher Li is a Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Drexel University. He received his B.S. degree in Polymer Chemistry from the University of Science and Technology of China in 1995 and his Ph.D. in Polymer Science from the University of Akron in 1999. After working as a post-doc at the Maurice Morton Institute of Polymer Science, UA for 2 years, he joined Drexel University, the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in 2002 as an assistant professor. He was promoted to associate and full professor in 2007, and 2011, respectively. His group studies ordered polymeric systems, including crystalline, liquid crystalline, and block copolymers, for energy storage and biomedical applications. Christopher Li is a Fellow of American Physical Society and North American Thermal Analysis Society and is on the Editorial Advisory Board of Polymer, Macromolecules (14-17), etc. He has received several awards including the NSF Creativity Award, NSF-CAREER Award, Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship, ASM Bradley Stoughton Award, DuPont Young Faculty Award, among others. He served as the President of the North American Thermal Analysis Society (NATAS) in 2016.
Breaking Translational Symmetry in Polymer Crystallization
Translational symmetry, one of the fundamental laws in crystallization, is often broken in a class of polymer crystals defined as shape-symmetry incommensurate crystals (SSICs). Examples of SSICs include helical, helicoidal, scrolled, tubular crystals and the newly discovered crystalsomes. The reason for the broken translation symmetry in SSICs can vary, and this talk will focus on the chain architecture effect on polymer crystallization. While classical flat single crystals are obtained in linear polymers, non-flat spherical or tubular crystals were observed in molecular bottlebrush polymers and end-functionalized polymers, respectively. The observed spherical and tubular morphologies suggest spontaneous translational symmetry breaking during crystal growth, which is attributed to lamellar imbalance associated with chain architectures. Crystallization kinetics in this class of polymers will also be discussed.
Kun Liu is a professor at the State Key Laboratory of Supramolecular Structure and Materials, College of Chemistry at Jilin University. He obtained his B.Sc. from Jilin University in 2001. In 2003, he came to the University of Toronto and did his Ph.D. with Prof. Ian Manners in the field of organometallic polymers. As a postdoctoral fellow, he joined Prof. Eugenia Kumacheva’s group in 2008 and worked on the self-assembly of inorganic nanoparticles. He moved back to Jilin University and started his own research group there in late 2012. His current research is mainly focused on the interfacial interactions between macromolecules and inorganic nanoparticles, including but not limited to polymer grafted nanoparticles, plasmonic (Au and Al) nanoparticles, chiral nanostructures, and 2D polymers. He serves as the deputy editor for Chemical Research in Chinese Universities and is on the advisory board for the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters and ACS Chemical Health & Safety. He is also currently the Deputy Dean of the College of Chemistry at Jilin University for Global Engagement and looking for strategic international collaborations.
Polymer Functionalized Nanoparticles: from Preparation to Self-Assembly
Polymer functionalized inorganic nanoparticles and their assemblies are promising for nanomedicines, biosensing, catalysis etc., owing to the comparable dimensions of polymer ligands and nanoparticles, the ability to synthesize polymers with various compositions and well-controlled architectures, and more importantly the capability of polymer ligands to render additional functionalities to nanoparticles, thus broadening the range of their applications. The recent research in my group has focused on novel inorganic/organic interaction mechanisms, characterization and microstructures of grafted polymer ligands, and macromolecular-mediated chiral assembly of plasmonic nanoparticles. In this presentation, we will discuss: 1) the strategies for polymer-directed shape- and size-controlled growth of highly reactive nanocrystals and their stabilization[1,2]; 2) new characterization methods for the microstructures of grafted polymers and their interaction with surrounding medium[3,4]; 3) a new equation for the asymmetric factor (g-factor) for chiral materials and a series of approaches for the chiral assembly of plasmonic nanoparticles with giant g-factors mediated by macromolecular ligands.[5,6]
 Lu, S.; Yu, H.; Gottheim, S.; Gao, H.; DeSantis, C.; Clark, B.; Yang, J.; Jacobson, C.; Lu, Z.*; Nordlander, P.*; Halas, N.*; Liu, K.* Polymer-Directed Growth of Plasmonic Aluminum Nanocrystals J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2018, 140; 15412.
 Yang, S.; Lu, S.; Li, Y.; Yu, H.; He, L.; Sun, T.; Yang, B.; Liu, K.* Poly(ethylene oxide) Mediated Synthesis of Sub-100-nm Aluminum Nanocrystals for Deep Ultraviolet Plasmonic Nanomaterials CCS Chem. 2020, 2; 516.
 Lu, J.; Xue, Y.; Shi, R.; Kang, J.; Zhao, C.; Zhang, N.; Wang, C.; Lu, Z.*; Liu, K.* A non-sacrificial method for the quantification of poly(ethylene glycol) grafting density on gold nanoparticles for applications in nanomedicine Chem. Sci. 2019, 10; 2067.
 Li, Y.; Gao, H.; Yu, H.; Jiang, K.; Yu, H.; Yang, Y.; Song, Y.; Zhang, W.; Shi, H.; Lu, Z.; Liu, K.* Two-Dimensional Polymers with Versatile Functionalities via Gemini Monomers Sci. Adv. 2019, 5; eaaw9120.
 Lu, J.; Xue, Y.; Bernardino, K.; Zhang, N.-N.; Gomes, W. R.; Ramesar, N. S.; Liu, S.; Hu, Z.; Sun, T.; Moura, A. F. de*; Kotov, N. A.*; Liu, K.* Enhanced Optical Asymmetry in Supramolecular Chiroplasmonic Assemblies with Long-Range Order Science 2021, 371; 1368.
 Zhang, N.-N.; Sun, H.-R.; Liu, S.; Xing, Y.-C.; Lu, J.; Peng, F.; Han, C.-L.; Wei, Z.; Sun, T.; Yang, B.; Liu, K.* ; Gold Nanoparticle Enantiomers and Their Chiral-Morphology Dependence of Cellular Uptake, CCS Chemistry, 2022, 4, 660.
Róisín M. Owens is a Professor of Bioelectronics at the Dept. of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Newnham College. She received her BA in Natural Sciences (Mod. Biochemistry) at Trinity College Dublin, and her PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Southampton University. She carried out two postdoc fellowships at Cornell University, on host-pathogen interactions of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in the dept. of Microbiology and Immunology with Prof. David Russell, and on rhinovirus therapeutics in the dept. of Biomedical Engineering with Prof. Moonsoo Jin. From 2009-2017 she was a group leader in the dept. of bioelectronics at Ecole des Mines de St. Etienne, on the microelectronics campus in Provence. Her current research centers on the application of organic electronic materials for monitoring biological systems in vitro, with a specific interest in enhancing the biological complexity and adapting the electronics to be fit for purpose. She has received several awards including the European Research Council starting (2011), proof of concept grant (2014) and consolidator (2016) grants, a Marie Curie fellowship, and an EMBO fellowship. She currently serves as co-I and co-director for the EPSRC CDT in Sensor Technologies, renewed in 2019. She is a 2019 laureate of the Suffrage Science award. From 2014-2020, she was principle editor for biomaterials for MRS communications (Cambridge University Press), and she serves on the advisory board of Advanced BioSystems and Journal of Applied Polymer Science (Wiley). In 2020 she became Scientific Editor for Materials Horizons (RSC). She is the author of 80+ publications and 2 patents and her work has been cited more than 5000 times.
Conducting Polymer Devices for in vitro Disease Modelling
In vitro models of biological systems are essential for our understanding of biological systems. In many cases where animal models have failed to translate to useful data for human diseases, physiologically relevant in vitro models can bridge the gap. Many difficulties exist in interfacing complex, 3D models with technology adapted for monitoring function. Polymeric electroactive materials and devices can bridge the gap between hard inflexible materials used for physical transducers and soft, compliant biological tissues. An additional advantage of these electronic materials is their flexibility for processing and fabrication in a wide range of formats. In this presentation, I will discuss our recent progress in adapting conducting polymer devices, specifically the Organic Electrochemical Transistor (OECT), to integrate with 3D cell models. We go further, by generating 3D electroactive scaffolds capable of hosting and monitoring cells. I will also highlight recent research using biomimetic models of cell membranes interfaced with organic electronic electrodes and transistors for drug discovery.
Quan Chen received his B.S. and M.S. in School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering from Shanghai Jiaotong University in 2003 and 2007, respectively, and Ph.D. degree in the Graduate School of Engineering, Kyoto University, Japan in 2011. He began working as a postdoc first at Kyoto University in 2011, and then at the Pennsylvania State University in 2012, and moved to current position as a Professor at the Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2015. Dr. Chen has over 80 publications on rheology research on polymer-related systems, and his current research interest is on the molecular rheology of associative polymers.
Nonlinear Rheological Properties of Reversible Polymer Networks
Reversible polymer networks refer to those polymer networks based on functional junctions, whose creation and loss can enter the time scales of our observation to endow the networks with reversibility. This presentation will first give an overview of our current understanding of the linear viscoelasticity of the reversible networks, in particular how the chain dynamics is related to the density, position, and lifetime of the reversible junctions. Second, this presentation will highlight our progress in understanding the nonlinear rheological properties of reversible networks under both the shear and elongational flow fields. The focus will be placed on the regime where the Weissenberg number, defined as a product of the flow rate and the relaxation time, is larger than one, where the flow field would induce the junction dissociation. We will show that the nonlinear rheological properties, particular the stretchability upon application of the elongational flow, depend strongly on the degree of flow-induced dissociation and the rate of the following chain retraction, both would affect the structural reconstruction.
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