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PMSE Early Investigator Symposium

The PMSE Early Investigator Symposium features invited oral presentations by honorees selected for their early-career professional accomplishments in the field of polymer science and engineering

Submissions are open for the PMSE Early Investigator Symposium from January 1 to February 1. Please use the Google Forms link here to apply, and review the nomination guidelines.

2024 Early Investigators

The 2024 PMSE Early Investigators Award Committee selected twenty four members, consisting of professors, government researchers, and industry scientists across the field of polymer science. A symposium highlighting their work will be held at the 2024 Fall ACS National Meeting, located in Denver, Colorado. The list below contains affiliations and links to their lab, website, or employer.

  • Stephanie Barbon, Dow Chemical Company
  • Johannes C. Brendel, University of Bayreuth
  • Liheng Cai, University of Virginia
  • Wan-Ting Chen, University of Massachusetts Lowell
  • Kaitlyn Crawford, University of Central Florida
  • Yifan Dong, Dow Chemical Company
  • Matthew Golder, University of Washington
  • Miao Hong, Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • Jovan Kamcev, University of Michigan
  • Laure Kayser, University of Delaware
  • Yoonseob Kim, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
  • Abigail Knight, North Carolina University at Chapel Hill
  • P. Padmanabhan, Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Jihye Park, University of Colorado
  • Luqing Qi, Dow Chemical Company
  • Eleftheria Roumeli, University of Washington
  • Michael Schulz, Virginia Tech
  • Amir Sheikhi, Penn State
  • Junpeng Wang, University of Akron
  • Svetlana Morozova, Case Western
  • Xiaoguang Wang, The Ohio State University
  • Mostafa Yourdkhani, Colorado State University
  • Cheng Zhang, University of Quennsland
  • A. Zhukhovitskiy, North Carolina University at Chapel Hill

Award Details

Selected nominees will give an invited technical talk at the Spring ACS National meeting, describing their research advances at a special symposium featuring the other PMSE Early Investigators. This special symposium will be accompanied by a networking reception with the other Early Investigators, keynote speakers, and selected invited guests from the PMSE community.


The symposium was established in 2017, and changed to the current title in 2022 to reflect a broader scope of early career options.


Nomination packages should follow package submission guidelines detailed below.

Selection will be made by organizers and ad-hoc members based on information provided in the nomination package, including research innovation and productivity as an independent research investigator, along with teaching and service.

Past Recipients

Nominations and Award Process


The PMSE Early Investigator (EI) Symposium is a forum to highlight the professional accomplishments of early-career investigators who are emerging leaders in the field of polymer science and engineering, across academia, industry, and national labs.  

Awardees will be honored at the PMSE Early Investigator Symposium held once a year during the Fall National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (location changes annually).

Rules of Eligibility

PMSE defines a “Early Investigator” as an early-career scientist or engineer who is no more than 7 years beyond the start of their independent research career (beyond postdoc).  PMSE strongly encourages nominations from academic, industrial, government, and other private research organizations, both foreign and domestic, that engage in the research and development of polymeric materials.  Nominations of individuals from historically underrepresented groups in STEM are strongly encouraged.  Nominees more than 7 years past the beginning of their independent careers will be considered in cases where the candidate has taken professional leave. Nominees are strongly encouraged to be members of the PMSE Division.

Postdocs and PhD graduates in the field of polymer science and engineering who are interested in future careers in academia are encouraged to apply for the “PMSE Future Faculty Scholars” program.

Nomination Process

Nominations are open between January 1 and February 1 of each calendar year. The deadline may be extended if needed.

Early career scientists and engineers from academia, industry, government, or private research organizations are encouraged to be nominated for the PMSE Early Investigator Symposium. The candidate’s research should align within the themes of ACS and the PMSE Division. Nominations are to be made by a mentor (e.g., postdoc advisor, PhD advisor, manager, or senior colleague). Self-nominations are not permitted. The nomination package must be uploaded via Google Forms, which will have a link available during the nomination window.

In addition to contact information for the nominee and nominator, a single PDF containing the following items, in this order, must be uploaded:

  1. Nomination letter addressing the nominee’s professional successes and impact (2 page maximum)
  2. Nominee’s title and abstract of the tentative presentation for the ACS meeting (~ 300 words)
  3. Nominee’s curriculum vitae (CV), including relevant information about publications, service, and mentorship

The PMSE Early Investigator Symposium seeks to recognize early career scientists who have had a significant impact on the field of polymer science and engineering. The nomination letter should explain researcher’s accomplishment and provide the context for understanding its impact. PMSE recognizes that impact can look quite different depending on whether the nominee is from academia, industry, or a national laboratory. The nomination letter should describe the importance of the nominee’s accomplishments relative to the environment they come from. Evidence to support this impact could include (but is not limited to):

  • Advances in scientific knowledge
  • Patents and publications
  • Product development
  • New measurements and materials
  • Engagement with and service to the nominee’s department or institution, national organization(s), or community
  • Mentorship and STEM workforce development

Questions regarding the nomination process can be sent to

Award Selection

Awardees will be selected based on accomplishments, the importance of these accomplishments to the nominee’s profession, and the overall impact on the field of polymer science and engineering. Nominations will be reviewed by organizers & ad hoc members of the selection committee based on information provided.

Award Announcement and Nature

Awardees will be notified at least one week before the deadline for submission of the abstracts for the Fall ACS National Meeting.

Selected nominees will give an invited technical talk describing their research advances at a special symposium featuring the other PMSE Early Investigators and keynote speakers from industry, national labs, and academia.  This special symposium will be accompanied by a networking reception with the other Early Investigators, keynote speakers, and selected invited guests from the PMSE community. The PMSE Young Polymer Scientists and Engineering Committee provides oversight to the coordination of the symposium. The organizers for the 2024 program are Christian Pester (Penn State) and Chris Stafford (NIST).

Prior Year Announcements for Young Investigator Honorees

The inaugural symposium was held at the Fall 2017 National ACS Meeting in San Francisco and featured 22 Future Faculty Scholars, as well as keynote talks delivered by established leaders in the field of polymer science and engineering applying for and starting jobs in academia. Many former honorees are currently independent faculty at academic institutions across the globe. This program is run annually, with nominations due early in the calendar year and the symposium held at the fall national meeting.

2023 Early Investigator Symposium Honorees

The twenty five members of the 2023 PMSE Early Investigators class are a collective group of professors, government researchers, and industry scientists across the field of polymer science. A symposium highlighting their work will be held at the 2023 Fall ACS National Meeting, located in San Francisco, California. The list below contains affiliations and links to their lab, website, or employer.

2022 Young Investigator Symposium Honorees (Chicago, IL)

  • Athina Anastasaki, ETH Zurich
  • Mohammad Arjmand, University of British Columbia
  • Kelly Burke, University of Connecticut
  • Jun Chen, UCLA
  • Xi Chelsea Chen, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • Lesley Chow, Lehigh University
  • Christopher Evans, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • Grace Gu, University of California, Berkeley
  • Sahika Inal, King Abdullah University
  • Katelyn Languell, 3M
  • Piran Kidambi, Vanderbilt University
  • Daniel King, Hokkaido University
  • Quentin Michaudel, Texas A&M University
  • Nathaniel Park, IBM
  • Zachariah Page, Univesity of Texas, Austin
  • Christian Pester, Penn State University
  • Maxwell Robb, Caltech
  • Kenan Song, Arizona State University
  • Ran Tao, NIST
  • Muzhou Wang, Northwestern University
  • Xueju Sophie Wang, University of Connecticut
  • Rong Yang, Cornell University

Young Investigator Symposia

Universities represent affiliations at the time of the conference

Fall 2021 (Held San Diego 2022)

Beth Elacqua (Penn State)
Davita Watkins (University of Mississippi)
Rudy Wojtecki (IBM)

PMSE Young Investigator Symposium Guest Speaker
Melissa Grunlan (Texas A&M University); PMSE Past Chair

Awardee NameAffiliation
Allie Obermeyer Columbia University
Lauren ZarzarPennsylvania State University
Chenfeng KeDartmouth College
Matthew B. BakerMaastricht University, The Netherlands
Elizabeth J. BrisboisUniversity of Georgia
Samanvaya SrivastavaUniversity of California, Los Angeles
Mao ChenFudan University, China
Sidi A. BencherifNortheastern University
Leila DeraviNortheastern University
Kun (Kelvin) FuUniverstiy of Delaware
Nagarjuna GavvalapalliGeorgetown University
Pengfei CaoOak Ridge National Lab
Jia NiuBoston College
Haritz SardonUniversity of Basque Country
Universidad del País Vasco/Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea (UPV-EHU), Spain

Fall 2020 (San Francisco / Virtual)

Rudy Wojtecki (IBM)
Yan Xia (Stanford)

Keynote Speakers

  • Jeff Moore (U Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
  • Tim Swager (MIT)
  • Paula Hammond (MIT) (not confirmed)

PMSE Young Investigators

  • Jonathan Barnes (Washington University St. Louis)
  • Blair Brettmann (Georgia Institute of Technology)
  • Melanie Chiu (Stony Brook University)
  • Hoyong Chung (Florida State)
  • Reza Foudazi (New Mexico State)
  • Xiaodan Gu (University of Southern Mississippi)
  • Zachary Hudson (University of British Columbia)
  • Hua Lu (Peking University)
  • Jianguo Mei (Purdue University)
  • Jian Qin (Stanford)
  • Jonathan Rivnay (Northwestern)
  • Jennifer Schaefer (Notre Dame)
  • Charles Sing (University of Illinois, UC)
  • Morgan Stefik (University of South Carolina)
  • Matthew Webber (Notre Dame)

Fall 2019 (San Diego)


Aaron Esser-Kahn (U Chicago)
Davita Watkins (U Mississippi)

Keynote Speakers

  • Geoffrey Coates (Cornell U)
  • Elizabeth Gillies (U Western Ontario)
  • Todd Emrick (U Massachusetts Amherst)

Young Investigators

  • Eric Appel (Stanford)
  • Christopher Bates (UC Santa Barbara)
  • Gaurav Giri (U Virginia)
  • Damien Guironnet (U of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
  • Will Gutekunst (Georgia Tech)
  • Robert Hickey (Pennsylvania State U)
  • Julia Kalow (Northwestern U)
  • Nathalie Lavoine (North Carolina State U)
  • Frank Leibfarth (U North Carolina)
  • Andrew Magenau (Drexel U)
  • Adrianne Rosales (U Texas at Austin)
  • Ellen Sletten (UCLA)
  • Zhiting Tian (Cornell U)
  • Mingjiang Zhong (Yale)

Fall 2018 (Boston)


Emily Pentzer (Case Western Reserve University)
Cole DeForest (University of Washington)

Keynote Speakers

  • Marc Hillmyer (University of Minnesota)
  • Matthew Becker (University of Akron)
  • Zhenan Bao (Stanford)
  • Stuart Rowan (University of Chicago)

PMSE Young Investigators

  • Chris Alabi (Cornell)
  • Matthias Barz (Mainz)
  • Guosong Chen (Fudan)
  • Kai Chen (Carbon 3D)
  • Eliaf Egap (Rice)
  • Adam Ekenseair (Northeastern)
  • Mike Hore (Case Western Reserve)
  • Justin Kennemur (Florida State)
  • Chris Kloxin (Delaware)
  • Dominik Konkolewicz (Miami University Ohio)
  • Guoliang (Greg) Liu (Virginia Tech)
  • John Matson (Virginia Tech)
  • Psaras McGrier (Ohio State)
  • Katherine Mirica (Dartmouth)
  • Ed Palermo (RPI)
  • Victoria Piunova (IBM)
  • Jon Pokorski (UC San Diego)
  • Tim Scott (Michigan)
  • Stefanie Sydlik (Carnegie Mellon)
  • Davita Watkins (Mississippi)
  • Ke Zhang (Northeastern)

Fall 2017 (San Francisco)


Jeannette M. Garcia (IBM Research)
Luis Campos (Columbia University)

Keynote Speakers

  • Karen Wooley (Texas A&M)
  • Craig Hawker (UC Santa Barbara)
  • Joe DeSimone (Carbon)
  • Carolyn Bertozzi (Stanford)

PMSE Young Investigators

  • Roey Amir (Tel Aviv U)
  • Jeffrey Byers (Boston College)
  • Cole DeForest (Washington)
  • Aaron Esser-Kahn (UC Irvine)
  • Lei Fang (Texas A&M)
  • Brett Fors (Cornell)
  • Kamil Godula (UC San Diego)
  • Matthew Kiesewetter (U Rhode Island)
  • Rebekka Klaussen (Johns Hopkins)
  • April Kloxin (Delaware)
  • Yi Liu (Molecular Foundry)
  • Laetitia Mespouille (U Mons, Belgium)
  • Cecile Monteaux (CNRS ESPCI, France)
  • Deidre O’Carrol (Rutgers)
  • Grace O’Connell (UC Berkeley)
  • Michelle O’Malley (UC Santa Barbara)
  • Emily Pentzer (Case Western Reserve)
  • Javier Read de Alaniz (UC Santa Barbara)
  • Megan Robertson (U Houston)
  • Dwight Seferos (U Toronto)
  • Rudy Wojtecki (IBM)
  • Yan Xia (Stanford)