What is your Research Focus?
Daily life relies on energy and materials, from transportation fuels to sturdy packaging that keeps food fresh and safe. Like petroleum-based fuels, most plastic also comes from fossil reserves. Unfortunately, the consumption of these reserves is resulting in global warming and the accumulation of plastic waste in landfills and the environment. Ideally, we could shift into a circular economy, where energy comes from renewable sources, and materials are re-used and recycled with minimal environmental impact. In our research group, we aim to enable a circular economy by developing routes towards synthesizing fuels and chemicals from renewable and sustainable starting materials like plastic waste and biomass waste.
To do this, we are working to leverage tunable heterogeneous catalytic systems to lower the energy required to break and form bonds to enable sustainable chemical transformations. Our current projects include the chemical upcycling of waste plastics, and catalytic upgrading of biomass-derived platform molecules. By developing targeted active catalytic sites to enable new chemical transformations and leveraging advanced characterization techniques, we aim to advance the field of renewable and sustainable chemical production, shifting away from fossil fuel consumption and mitigating the detrimental environmental effects of waste plastics.
What opportunities at the UW excite you?
I was drawn to the University of Washington because of the wealth of opportunities to collaborate with faculty in areas spanning sustainability, clean energy, and materials and the opportunity to work with passionate students while enjoying life in a beautiful part of the country. I am also very excited about working with the UW Clean Energy Institute on Community Engagement projects related to the intersection of art, science, and the advancement of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in science and engineering.