Johnson receives NSF CAREER award for supramolecular arsenic research

February 22 2006

The National Science Foundation has awarded a five year, $540,000, Early Faculty Development (CAREER) Program grant to University of Oregon chemist Darren W. Johnson. CAREER awards are the NSF’s most prestigious awards in support of the early career-development activities of those teacher-scholars who most effectively integrate research and education.

Johnson’s supramolecular nanoscale research aims to advance the basic science of arsenic and lead coordination chemistry. The long-term applications include environmental remediation, treatment for metal poisoning, and detection of contaminants. Supramolecular chemistry focuses on how multiple molecules and/or ions can interact, often via self-assembly, to form nanoscale structures.

According to Johnson, there is surprisingly little research done in supramolecular chemistry using main group elements such as arsenic and lead.

“Once we find molecules that specifically assemble with lead or arsenic, they can be used to sense and measure the level of contamination or to remove the hazardous chemicals from the soil, air or even the human body,” he said.

The grant will support development of a program that links Johnson’s research to three education activities at the University of Oregon. It will expand the graduate-level internship program between the university, regional industry and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, add new curricula to undergraduate organic chemistry and masters-level polymer chemistry courses, and provide support for a seminar and workshop series for members of the new Women in Graduate Sciences group.

“ONAMI is very pleased to see one of these highly competitive awards going to one of its members,” said Skip Rung, executive director of the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute. “The field of green nanoscience and environmental applications is top-of-mind in every way right now - research interest, public policy, commercial investment - and this is an outstanding example of Oregon’s leading contributions in this emerging field.”

The CAREER Program is intended for tenure-track associate faculty members who are at or near the beginning of their careers. Johnson received his doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley in 2000. He has been an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Oregon since 2003. This was his first application for the NSF CAREER award.

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