Chemistry’s Fakhraai Wins NSF CAREER Award

December 12, 2013

Assistant Professor of Chemistry Zahra Fakhraai has received the National Science Foundation's Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award. The CAREER awards are the National Science Foundation (NSF)’s most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.

Fakhraai studies the effect of nano-confinement on structure, dynamics, and other properties of materials. Materials behave differently on surfaces, interfaces, or small-length scales compared to their bulk properties. Understanding such differences is crucial in many technological applications where materials are constrained in nanometer-size spaces, such as organic electronics, polymer applications, and drug delivery. 

Biological systems are most dynamic within a nanometer of surfaces and interfaces, and understanding the properties in confinement is a key in predicting function. Fakhraai’s lab is studying the origins of such modified properties on a fundamental level, as well as possible applications of such phenomena in producing novel materials or experimental tools. These might include exceptionally stable glasses or harvest light for various applications. Fakhraai has received a 2014 grant from the National Institutes of Health-funded Penn Alzheimer's Disease Core Center to study the effect of surface interactions on the early stages of A-Beta growth; the A-Beta peptide is the main component of plaques seen in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. 

Fakhraai earned her Ph.D. from the University of Waterloo, receiving the American Physical Society’s Padden Award. She came to Penn in 2011.