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Frank Leibfarth won both an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship and a Cottrell Scholar Award, two top honors given to early-career scientists. (photo by Donn Young) He is pictured here in his lab.
Frank Leibfarth won both an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship and a Cottrell Scholar Award, two top honors given to early-career scientists. (photo by Donn Young)

Frank Leibfarth, assistant professor of chemistry in UNC’s College of Arts & Sciences, has won two prestigious awards for early-career scientists. In only one week, he has been awarded an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship and a Cottrell Scholar Award for 2020.

Sloan Fellowships, given by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, are presented to early-career scientists and scholars whose achievement and potential identify them as “rising stars” — the next generation of scientific leaders. Awarded yearly to 126 of the brightest young scientists across the U.S. and Canada, the Sloan Fellowships are one of the most competitive and prestigious awards available to early-career researchers.

Cottrell Scholar Awards, presented by the Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement, are given to early-career scholars who are identified as leaders in integrating scientific teaching and research. Leibfarth was among 25 winners of this award.

“To receive a Sloan Research Fellowship is to be told by your fellow scientists that you stand out among your peers,” said Adam F. Falk, president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “A Sloan Research Fellow is someone whose drive, creativity and insight makes them a researcher to watch.”

Leibfarth’s research focuses on synthetic polymers, commonly known as plastics, which protect us from extreme weather, improve the fuel efficiency of cars, enable prolonged food storage and help cure diseases. Polymers are substances made from strings of single molecules bonded together. While these versatile materials have made modern population expansion and globalization possible, innovations in polymeric materials are needed to address next-generation scientific and technological challenges in sustainability, water security, renewable energy and healthcare.

Leibfarth also netted a number of prestigious honors last year, including a Beckman Young Investigator Award, an NSF CAREER Award and an Army Research Office Young Investigator Award.

“Frank is one of the most creative and fearless scientists of his generation, strongly evidenced by his successful prosecution of problems that have vexed polymer scientists for decades,” said Jeffrey Johnson, chair of the department of chemistry.

Leibfarth received a Ph.D. in chemistry and biochemistry from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a bachelor’s in chemistry and physics from the University of South Dakota. He arrived at Carolina in 2016.

 

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