W&J Alumnus Wins ACS Nobel Laureate Signature Award

Created: November 23, 2015  |  Last Updated: October 4, 2021  |  Category:   |  Tagged: ,

WASHINGTON, PA (Nov. 23, 2015) — Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) alumnus Matthew Polinski ’10 is the recipient of the 2016 American Chemical Society (ACS) Nobel Laureate Signature Award for Graduate Education in Chemistry.

A Monongahela, Pa. native and a chemistry major while at W&J, Polinski is now an assistant professor at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. The award, sponsored by Avantor Performance Materials, will be given to him on March 16, 2016.

Polinski said his research, and subsequent findings, come from a need to understand the idea of nuclear energy better and to utilize nuclear recycling where it is necessary.

"We as a country have numerous challenges in the expansion of nuclear energy, which is essential for mitigating global climate change. We also have to clean up the legacy of the Cold War,” said Polinski. “The bulk of the short-term activity in nuclear waste comes from some of the least understood radioactive elements in the periodic table, such as americium and curium. Our current lack of a detailed understanding of bonding in these elements inhibits our ability to improve recycling of used nuclear fuel.”

The research Polinski’s team conducted uncovered significant differences in chemical behaviors of mid- to late actinides that he said they hope can be exploited both in the development of new recycling methods and advanced materials for storing radionuclides.

Polinski said his team’s findings also directly challenge many longstanding models of chemistry deep in the periodic table.

Polinski credits his time at W&J for giving him the ambition to make a difference. He is also grateful for the student-mentor relationship he was able to build with W&J assistant professor Deborah Polvani, Ph.D.

“Conducting research with Dr. Polvani showed me how powerful a student-mentor relationship could be and inspired me to become a chemistry professor,” said Polinski. “I would not be where I am today if it wasn't for my W&J research experience and the guidance and mentoring of Dr. Polvani.”



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