UNIVERSITY PARK, Pennsylvania – Amir Sheikhi, assistant professor of chemical engineering at Penn State, has been selected to receive the American Chemical Society’s 2022 Unilever Award as Outstanding Young Investigator in Colloid & Surfactant Science. Sheikhi will accept the award and give a lecture related to his research at the 96th ACS Colloid and Surface Science Symposium, which will be held July 10-13 in Golden, Colorado.
Awarded annually, the Unilever Award was established in 2003 by Unilever Global to “recognize and encourage the fundamental work in colloid or surfactant science done in North America by early career researchers,” according to the website of the prize. Recipients must be within seven years of graduation and particular attention is given to the “originality and creativity of the work and its potential impact”.
Sheikhi was awarded for his work in the study and application of hairy nanocolloids and modular colloidal or granular gels. Hairy nanocolloids are a class of nanomaterials designed to have a large number of “hairs” made of extending polymer chains. Sheikhi applies such nanomaterials in a wide variety of uses, including the capture of off-target drugs and the rescue of rare earth metals from electronic waste. Modular hydrogels are assembled from nano and / or microparticles and mimic the structure of native tissues, acting as regenerative scaffolds to accelerate wound healing by supporting the formation of blood vessels and nerves. Sheikhi is developing an injectable form of this material, called a granular hydrogel, to promote tissue repair and improve stroke recovery.
“Dr. Sheikhi is a superstar in the field of colloid and surface science, running a laboratory focused on the micro and nanoengineering of natural or semi-natural polymers to develop biomimetic soft matter with bespoke structure-property relationships, “said Darrell Velegol, distinguished professor of chemical engineering, which nominated Sheikhi for the award. “His work is interdisciplinary and at the crossroads of materials and medicine. This is an extremely competitive award and this is a great win for Dr. Sheikhi and our department. We are. very proud to have him in our faculty! ”
Velegol also noted that beyond Sheikhi’s research findings, Sheikhi is also a caring teacher and advisor dedicated to preparing her students to become “amazing” leaders in the field. She currently supervises 10 graduate students, a postdoctoral researcher and more than 15 undergraduate researchers in the Bio-Soft Materials Laboratory, which she founded in 2019.
“I am extremely excited and honored to receive this recognition and would like to thank the members of the selection committee, Unilever, my nominator and my advisors,” said Sheikhi. “I believe colloids hold great promise as enabling materials to address some of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals. I look forward to further advancing fundamental and applied bio-based colloids to improve the quality of life and support ecosystems. ”
Sheikhi is an active member of ACS, co-organizes and co-chairs several sessions for various meetings and conferences, as well as serving as a peer reviewer for several ACS journals. He has published over 60 articles and filed 12 patents. She has been awarded the John C. Chen Young Professional Leadership Scholarship and the UNIFOR Global Research Scholarship, among many other awards. He was also inducted into the American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ 35 Under 35 list, as well as being recognized in AICHE’s journal of Bioengineering and Translational Medicine as one of nine emerging leaders in chemical and biomedical engineering worldwide.