Boston College Assistant Professor of Chemistry Jia Niu is one of 10 researchers from across the U.S. to be named a Beckman Young Investigator, which carries with it a four-year, $600,000 grant to support the chemist’s research into sustainably-oriented polymers.

The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation selected its 2019 class of Beckman Young Investigator Awardees from more than 300 applicants from U.S. colleges and universities.

“I am very grateful to the Beckman Foundation for providing this generous support,” said Niu. “This is tremendous encouragement to our research team, including talented and hard-working postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and undergraduate researchers.”

Niu’s research group is interested in developing novel precision macromolecules with tailor-made structures and sequences, and applying them to address pressing needs in biomedicine, materials, and environmental sciences.

With the support from the Beckman Young Investigator Award, Niu said his team will develop a new platform technology for creating new sustainable polymers with precisely controlled backbone structures, thereby generating novel materials that can self-assemble, become elastic, or can be responsive to external stimuli.

BC Professor and Chairman of the Department of Chemistry Marc Snapper praised the selection of Niu among the most promising early-career scientists in the country. Niu is the first BC faculty member to receive a Beckman Young Investigator Award.

"The department is incredibly proud of this prestigious recognition that Professor Niu has received,” said Snapper. “We hope we can continue to provide a supportive environment that allows impressive scholars like Jia to thrive.”

Niu’s fellow recipients are from UCLA, Dartmouth College, University of North Carolina, Harvard University, Caltech, Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, and Stanford University. They were selected following a three-part review led by a panel of scientific experts.

“The awardees exemplify the Foundation’s mission of supporting the most promising young faculty members in the early stages of their academic careers in the chemical and life sciences, particularly to foster the invention of methods, instruments and materials that will open up new avenues of research in science,” the foundation said in a news release.

This year’s award offers $600,000 in funding over four years to each of the recipients.

“Our new 2019 BYI awardees are tackling a broad range of challenges, from production of sustainable plastics and batteries, to new rapid genetic screening techniques for cancer therapies, to modeling of magnetic quantum materials, among others,” said Dr. Anne Hultgren, Executive Director of the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation. “We’re very excited to welcome these exceptional scientists to the Beckman family, and look forward to seeing their progress over the next few years.”

Located in Irvine, California, the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation supports researchers and nonprofit research institutions in making the next generation of breakthroughs in chemistry and the life sciences. Founded in 1978 by 20th century scientific instrumentation pioneer Dr. Arnold O. Beckman, the Foundation supports United States institutions and young scientists whose creative, high-risk, and interdisciplinary research will lead to innovations and new tools and methods for scientific discovery.

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—Ed Hayward | University Communications | June 2019