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2015 Journal of Polymer Science Innovation Award

The editors of the Journal of Polymer Science and the Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering (PMSE) Division of the ACS are delighted to announce that the JPS Innovation Award winner for 2015 is Rachel Segalman. The award recognizes Rachel for her innovative work, such as unraveling the principles underlying the processing /structure/property relationships in block copolymers with one stiff conjugated block (“rod-coil” block copolymers) for organic photovoltaic (PV) applications; the thermoelectric properties of novel conjugated polymer/inorganic nanoparticle composites; and the structure and ionic conductivity of a new class of “polymerized ionic liquids”.

The Innovation Award was established in 2012 to celebrate significant research innovation and achievement in a polymer scientist under the age of 40. The recipient is recognized with a symposium in association with PMSE at the ACS Fall meeting.

Rachel is currently a Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). She received her Ph.D. from the same institution under the guidance of Ed Kramer, and has held scientist and director positions at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories and professorships at the University of California, Berkeley in the intervening years.

Over the past decade, Rachel has made major innovative breakthroughs in a range of topic areas in polymer science. For instance, previous experiments to probe the ordering of rod-coil block copolymers were beset with non-equilibrium morphologies leading to a bewildering array of potential phases. In seminal experiments, she designed and synthesized a set of weakly segregated rod-coil block copolymers that enabled her to determine their equilibrium phase diagram under thermal annealing conditions, along with a theoretical model that allowed her to predict how this diagram will change as the length of the rod or the dimensions of the coil are varied. This work was the key to her developing a new way to control the nano-domain order in the rod-coil block copolymers using a magnetic field whilst annealing the samples to give single crystal texture to the ordered block copolymer. Application of her processing method to thin films could lead to rod-coil block copolymer lamellar morphologies where the lamellae are normal to the film plane and thus ideal for PV applications.

In another example of the applicability of her work, Rachel’s early research on directed self-assembly (DSA) of coil-coil block copolymers, conducted prior to earning her PhD in 2002, has garnered nearly 1000 citations and set in place the understanding that has led to viable DSA-based advanced lithography strategies currently being pursued by the semiconductor industry.

With this combination of innovation, application and impact, Rachel’s work has resulted in over 100 publications in peer-reviewed journals and 4 patents. She has been recognized with many awards, including an NSF CAREER award, the John H. Dillon Medal, and an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship. Recognizing her pioneering approach to all aspects of her research, we are thrilled to award Rachel the 2015 Journal of Polymer Science Innovation Award.