Eastman Chemical Seminar Series

The School of Polymers and High Performance Materials, along with support from Eastman Chemical Company, invites distinguished professionals from academia and industry to give presentations on topics of current areas of high level research.  Some topics align closely with our current research directions, while others represent areas of interest to the polymer science & engineering community that are not formally being studied by our researchers. Diversity of topics is essential to meeting the purpose of the Eastman Chemical Seminar Series.

Spring 2018 Invited Speakers

Robert T. Mathers

January 19, 2018

Predicting Hydrophobicity of Macromolecular Structures


The terms hydrophobicity and hydrophilicity find numerous uses throughout many disciplines of science. These concepts provide a framework for understanding physical phenomena such as surface wetting, thermoresponsive solubility, self-assembly, protein folding, drug adsorption, and swelling of thermosets.

Generally, the concept of polymer hydrophobicity is easily recognized, but difficult to quantify prior to a polymerization. This presentation will examine new methods to understand and quantify hydrophobicity of monomers and macromolecular structures. As such, partition coefficients (LogP) provide a metric to assess homopolymers, copolymers, thermosets, and branched polymers. Additionally, LogP values offer options for fine-tuning predictive and responsive behaviour by predicting the necessary hydrophilic/hydrophobic balance.


Robert T. Mathers obtained a B.S. in Chemistry from NC State University and a PhD in Polymer Science at The University of Akron (2002). After working in the field of anionic polymerization with Prof. Rod Quirk on polymer brushes and functional polymers, Rob spent two years at Cornell University with Prof. Geoffrey Coates investigating polyolefins. Then, he joined Penn State University and is presently a Professor of Chemistry at the New Kensington campus near Pittsburgh. In 2011-2012, he took a two-semester sabbatical in the laboratory of Prof. Kris Matyjaszewski at Carnegie Mellon University to learn about ATRP and expand his background in polymer chemistry. Current research interests include synthesis of polymeric materials with renewable components and tailored hydrophobicity for applications involving predictive and responsive behavior. Recent examples include hydrophobic monomers, polymer electrolytes, biomaterials with B vitamins, and self-assembly.




Paul Rupar

January 24, 2018

Anionic Polymerizations of Activated Aziridines and Azetidines



The polymerizations of aziridines and azetidines are surprisingly complex, despite the structural simplicity of these monomers. Both aziridine and azetidine exclusively polymerize cationically to form hyper-branched polymers; most substituted aziridines and azetidines behave similarly. In an effort to control the polymerizations of aziridines and azetidines, we are studying the impact of electron withdrawing groups substituted on the nitrogen atom. The electron withdrawing groups activate the monomers towards nucleophilic attack and permit these monomers to undergo anionic ring-opening polymerizations (AROP).

This talk will focus on our recent work on the AROP of N-sulfonyl aziridines and N-sulfonyl azetidines. In the case of activated N-sulfonyl aziridines, these monomers undergo living polymerizations to form linear polymers. However, the polymerization chemistry of N-sulfonyl azetidines is significantly more complex, leading to the formation of branched polymers via unusual transfer reactions.

Biographical Sketch






Dominik Konkolewicz

February 21, 2018

Dynamic Interactions in Polymers: Enhanced Elastomers and Better Bioconjugates


Inclusion of dynamically exchanging bonds into a polymer material can introduce a wide variety of desirable properties. For instance, incorporation of dynamically exchanging bonds as cross linkers into a polymer matrix can increase toughness, malleability, and impart self-healing properties. Similarly, non-covalent and dynamic interactions can enhance the performance of conjugates between natural biomolecules and synthetic polymers. Here we will explore non-covalent and dynamic covalent interactions in the context of both  dynamically cross linked polymers and protein-polymer bioconjugates. 

Dynamically cross linked materials face a fundamental tradeoff, between desirable dynamic character and undesirable susceptibility to creep. Typically the more rapidly a linker exchanges, the greater the self-healing properties, but also the greater the creep susceptibility. New dynamic covalent chemistries in polymer materials are explored to enhance materials, showing that thiol-Michael linkages are capable of undergoing dynamic exchange upon thermal and pH stimulus. Further, we have developed a dual dynamic bonding strategy where one non-covalent linker that exchanges rapidly is combined with one dynamic-covalent linker that exchanges slowly and in response to external stimulus are combined together into a single material. 

Proteins have a vast library of non-covalent and potentially dynamic interactions that give the secondary and tertiary structure. Polymer conjugation to a protein can increase enzymatic activity as well as increase protein stability. With new polymer synthetic tools, a library of bioconjugates can be generated with distinct non-covalent interactions between the polymer and the protein surface. A study of how these interactions impact enzymatic activity and stability can guide the development of new bioconjugates.

Biographical Sketch

Dominik Konkolewicz was born and educated in Sydney, Australia. He completed his bachelors degrees in Chemistry and Mathematics at the University of Sydney in 2006. He commenced his Doctoral studies in 2007 at the University of Sydney, focusing on the synthesis and characterization of highly branched polymers by a combination of controlled radical polymerization and high yield organic reactions. After graduating with his Ph.D. in 2011, he moved to Carnegie Mellon University, to commence his postdoctoral work as a Visiting Assistant Professor/Senior Research Chemist. His postdoctoral work studied transition metal mediated controlled radical polymerization reactions utilizing photochemical methods, or in aqueous media. In 2014 he joined the Chemistry and Biochemistry Faculty at Miami University, where his group develops new materials for applications ranging from new photochemical strategies, materials that can repair themselves, and bioconjugates.




Natalie Stingelin

February 28, 2018

'Cool' Plastics: Towards novel heat and light management concepts based on solution-processable polymers and inorganic/organic hybrid systems


In recent years, rising energy costs have driven the strong need for the development of novel materials systems that promote energy harvesting and storage. Another efficient strategy to reduce unnecessary emissions, which seems to have attracted insufficient attention in the scientific community so far, is to reduce energy consumption through use of heat management structures. The latter approach has great promise in the building and construction sector but also in the automotive area as it decreases, among other things, the need for excessive air conditioning. Pronounced urban heat-island effects further drive the demand for intelligent solar heat management solutions. Since heat is most often a direct consequence of infrared radiation incident on an object, with the heat-producing region being between 750 - 1200 nm, one obvious strategy to reduce heat is the deployment of IR high reflecting coatings. Thereby of key importance for many applications is that such coatings retain transparency over the visible wavelength regime and, ideally, do not interfere with the operation of electronic devices by, e.g., blocking the radiowaves needed for data transfer to operate cell phones, global positioning systems (GPS) and the like. We present versatile, low-cost and easy-to-process inorganic/organic hybrid materials for use as near-IR (NIR)/IR reflectivity coatings and mirrors. We will focus on hybrids of titanium oxide hydrates with polymers such as polyvinyl alcohol (PVAl) which are fully transparent across the visible wavelength regime while also displaying refractive indices (n) of up to 2.1. These systems can be extended to other metal oxide hydrates and commodity polymers in order to further tune their processibility, IR reflectivity but also other features such as their chromic responses (electrochromism/photochromism). Applications of such hybrids beyond IR mirrors will be discussed, including novel battery concepts, anti-reflection coatings and beyond.


1. Russo, M., et al., Pronounced photochromism of titanium oxide hydrates (hydrous TiO2). J. Mater. Chem. 20, 1348 (2010)

2. Russo, M., et al., Versatile chromism of titanium oxide hydrate/poly(vinyl alcohol) hybrid systems. Adv. Mater. 22, 3015 (2012)

3. M. Russo et al, J. Polym. Sci., Part B: Polym. Phys. 50, 65 (2011)


Biographical Sketch

Natalie Stingelin (Stutzmann) FRSC is a Full Professor of Functional Organic Materials at the Georgia Institute of Technology, with prior positions at Imperial College London, the Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge; Queen Mary University of London, the Philips Research Laboratories, Eindhoven; and ETH Zürich. She was awarded a Chaire Internationale Associée by the Excellence Initiative of the Université de Bordeaux (2016), the Institute of Materials, Minerals & Mining's Rosenhain Medal and Prize (2014) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) President's International Fellowship Initiative (PIFI) Award for Visiting Scientists (2015); she was the Chair of the 2016 Gordon Conference on 'Electronic Processes in Organic Materials' as well as the Zing conference on ‘Organic Semiconductors’. She has published >160 papers and 6 issued patents. Her research interests encompass organic electronics & photonics, bioelectronics, physical chemistry of organic functional materials, and smart inorganic/organic hybrid systems.




Erik Berda

March 7, 2018

Functional Nanomaterials from Single Polymer Chains



Functional nanomaterials in nature depend largely on the primary, secondary and tertiary structure of proteins. While polymer synthesis has made strides in recent years with respect to control over structure across multiple length scales, effective synthetic mimics of protein tertiary structure remains an unmet research challenge. Work in our group focuses largely on this topic. Single-chain nanoparticles, formed though intramolecular cross-linking of individual polymer chains in dilute solution, represent a crude way to mimic the elegant folding process seen in proteins. This talk will highlight recent advances in our labs with respect to introducing functionality simultaneously with cross-linking using a variety of reaction conditions, along with recent insight into the design characteristics required for efficient intermolecular collapse, and a brief look at strategies to build reversible or responsive cross-links into these nanomaterials.

Biographical Sketch


Erik Berda received a BS in Chemistry from Penn State in 2003 where he was introduced to polymer science in the research group of Prof. Harry Allcock. After a completing a PhD in organic chemistry with Prof. Ken Wagener at the University of Florida (2008) and postdoctoral training with prof. Bert Meijer at TU/e (Eindhoven, NL), Erik joined the faculty at the University of New Hampshire in 2010 where he is currently the Gloria G. and Robert E. Lyle Associate Professor of Chemistry and Materials Science. Erik was recognized by both RSC Chemical Communications and Polymer Chemistry as an “Emerging Investigator,” and as a “Pioneering Investigator” by Polymer Chemistry. He is the recipient of the Army Research Office Young Investigator Award, and currently serves as Secretary of the ACS Division of Polymer Chemistry. Berda Group research focuses on defined nanostructure synthesis through manipulation of single polymer molecules and on the design and synthesis of functional and responsive polymers.




Al Nelson

April 4, 2018

Hydrogel Inks for Direct-Write 3D Printing



Additive manufacturing (or 3D printing) has re-emerged into the spotlight in the last 5 years driven by the rapid progress in hardware and software. Along with these advances, new materials are required to meet the demands of emerging technologies. Herein, we present multi-stimuli-responsive hydrogels designed for direct-write 3D printing. These materials are reversibly stimuli-responsive to temperature and pressure, and can ultimately undergo UV-initiated cross-linking. The syntheses, characterization, and patterning of these materials will be presented. The application of these polymer hydrogels toward catalytically active living materials and anatomical models for human tissue will also be discussed.

Biographical Sketch


Alshakim Nelson received his PhD in organic chemistry from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2004, where he worked with Professor J. Fraser Stoddart on carbohydrate-containing polymers and macrocycles. He was then an NIH postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology working for Professor Robert Grubbs on olefin metathesis catalysts for the formation of supramolecular ensembles. Dr. Nelson joined IBM Almaden Research Center as a Research Staff Member in 2005, where he focused on synthesizing building blocks that enable large area nanomanufacturing via self-assembly. While at IBM, he managed of the Nanomaterials Group, which included the Synthetic Development Facility. In 2015, he joined UW Department of Chemistry as an Assistant Professor where his group develops polymeric materials for 3D printing




Kunlun Hong

April 11, 2018

To Be Announced




Biographical Sketch






Andrea Browning

April 25, 2018

To Be Announced




Biographical Sketch