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ChE Welcomes Two Talented New Faculty Members

Clark Chen and Anna Marie LaChance

Clark Chen and Anna Marie LaChance

The Chemical Engineering (ChE) Department is honored to welcome two gifted young researchers and academics to join its excellent faculty. Doctor Zhu “Clark” Chen arrives from his post-doctoral position at the University of Toronto to take on the position of assistant professor in the ChE department. Meanwhile, Doctor Anna Marie LaChance is coming from the University of Connecticut to serve as a lecturer for ChE.

Chen received his Ph.D. degree in Chemical and Biological Engineering from Princeton University in 2017 after earning his M.A.Sc. and B.A.Sc. from the University of Waterloo in Ontario.

After receiving his Ph.D., Chen joined Professor Richard Van Duyne’s group at Northwestern University as a postdoctoral fellow, with his research spanning electrocatalysis, nanomaterial synthesis, and operando spectroscopy. Chen later joined the research team of Professor Ted Sargent at the University of Toronto in 2020 as a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow focusing on CO2 conversion using renewable processes.

In recent research projects, he has discovered much more efficient electrocatalysts for CO2 reduction, developed in situ characterization of electrocatalysts at the molecular scale using surface- and tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy, and boosted our understanding of oxide and semiconductor surface chemistry in electrocatalysis.

Related to his research, Chen has published more than 24 papers in juried scientific journals, including 13 first-author publications garnering at least 2,216 citations. In addition, he has given at least 14 presentations at scientific conferences. Beyond that, he has received some 11 Canadian national, provincial, and institutional fellowships and awards.

Chen has also been awarded U.S. Patent No. US9590253B2: “Core-shell structured bifunctional catalysts for metal air battery/fuel cell.”

LaChance hails from Wolcott, Connecticut, and earned her B.S. (2017) and Ph.D. (2021) in Chemical Engineering from the University of Connecticut. She also received a Graduate Certificate in College Instruction from UConn in 2020.

In the process, LaChance has been studying “green” polymer coatings in Professor Luyi Sun’s lab at UConn, where she has been specializing in the study of nanocomposite materials. She applied the group’s clay-based, thin-film coating technology to food packaging, dielectric materials, and construction materials. These coatings serve as a barrier to vapor permeation and charge transport, a process which can prevent food waste, dielectric breakdown, and other types of material weathering.

From her graduate research, LaChance has more than 15 publications in peer-reviewed journals, has given at least eight presentations at scientific conferences, and has been awarded International Patent No. WO2021080876: “Nanocomposite Coating System via One-step Co-assembly.”

At UConn, LaChance was also a very active member of the Rainbow Center Grads and Young Professionals group, the UConn chapter of Out In STEM (oSTEM), and the Vergnano Institute for Inclusion, where she created Queer Science, a new annual outreach program for LGBTQ+ high school students interested in pursuing a STEM degree at UConn.

In relation to her graduate research, her DEI-focused initiatives, and her multiple semesters serving as a teaching assistant, LaChance has received more than a dozen awards from UConn and other state agencies. Among these are the CT Technology Council’s “17th Annual Women of Innovation® Award” in a category that recognizes women in Connecticut who are leaders in promoting equitability, diversity, and inclusivity in the STEM curriculum. She was the first transgender person to win this award in any category in the award’s 17-year history. (August 2022)

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