At the American Chemical Society’s national spring meeting in San Diego, Arizona State University Professor Tim Long was honored by the society's Division of Polymer Chemistry with the Paul J. Flory Award for Polymer Education.
Long, who holds joint appointments in the School of Molecular Sciences and School for Engineering of Matter Transportation and Energy, is director of the Biodesign Institute’s Center for Sustainable Macromolecular Materials and Manufacturing (SM3).
The Paul J. Flory Award for Polymer Education commemorates the achievements of the late Paul Flory, a 1974 Nobel Prize recipient who was a physical chemist at Stanford University; it was created to recognize, encourage and stimulate outstanding achievements by an individual in promoting undergraduate or graduate polymer education. Flory won the award posthumously in 1986.
“Many emotions have flooded over me during the past week,” Long said. “I’m honored, excited and humbled.”
It’s particularly fitting that the award nomination package was assembled by Long’s former undergraduate and graduate students. He has mentored over 120 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.
“It’s not really the NSF grant or the NIH grant or the large DOE grant that defines our success," Long said. "These awards are vehicles to train our students, and at the end of the day I’m so proud of our graduates whose careers I’ve helped to nurture.”
“This award is very well deserved,” said Professor Tijana Rajh, director of the School of Molecular Sciences, which is part of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Tim Long has made important contributions in solvent-free polymerization, in the design of degradable polymers, and in the development of sustainable precursors for polymer production. The designed engineering of macromolecules represents a critical component of molecular solutions to major societal problems, and at ASU, Tim is leading the way.”
Sustainability and the community
Long has always thoroughly enjoyed getting out into the community helping science to be more understandable.
He explains that a big part of sustainability is engaging the community and catalyzing conversations that span so many different people. It includes citizens in the community as well as high school students and undergraduates who are thinking about the next step in their careers, or the graduate student who's currently pursuing a PhD. A huge resource is also the retired individual who is deciding what to do next and brings a lifetime of experience.
Long feels that undergraduate research should be required for every student in science whether they go on to do a PhD or not. Science is all about doing and experiencing the excitement of the laboratory and discovering something where there's no predetermined syllabus.
“I always joke and say that the “S” in ASU stands for sustainability,” Long said. "It’s huge at ASU, and thanks to the very bold vision of President Crow, it really has become part of the fabric of the university. The SM3 center really fits within this bigger ecosystem and the universitywide focus on sustainability."
The Biodesign Institute Center
The Biodesign Institute’s Center for Sustainable Macromolecular Materials and Manufacturing is focused on the sustainability of materials as well as the impact of materials on our lives without compromising the health of the Earth.
Long is imposing a lens of sustainability on the design of next-generation polymers, plastics and materials.
“Hardly a day goes by when we don't see an article or news story on microplastics in the ocean or other detrimental impacts of plastics. However, in reality, plastics have made our lives a lot better,” Long said.
A huge challenge for the center is to re-create or rethink technologies and continue to make the world a better place without compromise to the Earth. Long came to ASU 18 months ago and is very excited by this opportunity. He said he feels as though for the last 25 years he has been making molecules, and for the next 15 he’s going to be “unmaking” them.
Long says we can’t just do away with plastics — they’re everywhere around us improving our lives.
Within the center, Long leads the integration of fundamental research in novel macromolecular structure and polymerization processes with the development of high-performance macromolecules for advanced technologies, taking full advantage of 3D printing techniques to drive sustainable production of unprecedented material designs.
This work is expected to impact drug delivery, sustainable feedstocks, stimuli-responsive polymers, adhesives and elastomers using the techniques of block copolymers, engineering polymers, controlled polymerization and biomaterials needed for improving health and energy storage, and production.
The center also focuses on the principles of green chemistry, utilizing click chemistry for efficient functionalization, solvent-free polymerization processes, design of degradable polymers and development of sustainable precursors for polymer production.
“We are educating the next-generation workforce with structure-property-processing-performance relationships," Long said.
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