CSU chemistry professors Zadrozny and Bandar receive prestigious Cottrell Scholar Award

Jeff Bandar and Joseph Zadrozny are the fifth and sixth Colorado State University professors to receive the Cottrell Scholar Award, an honor that has never gone to two CSU professors in the same year. Bandar and Zadrozny, both assistant professors in the Department of Chemistry, join 23 others to receive this competitive, nationwide recognition.

First awarded in 1994 by the Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement, the Cottrell Scholar Award is for a three-year project in the amount of $100,000 per recipient. The award recognizes outstanding early career teacher-scholars for their innovative research programs and academic leadership skills in chemistry, physics, or astronomy, chosen through a rigorous peer-review process.

Joseph Zadrozny – studying molecular magnetism principles

The Zadrozny Group’s work spans efforts to control magnetic properties of metal-containing molecules by design.

“The no-strings-attached nature of the funding gives us substantial liberty to define the next directions for our work,” Zadrozny said. The funding from the award will support all aspects of their research from student salary support and travel to chemicals acquisition and instrumentation upgrades.

“A molecule’s magnetic moment can exist as a superposition of two different orientations,” said Zadrozny. “However, those superpositions are often fleeting when applications need them to be robust and long-lived. We are designing molecules for those lifetimes to be robust, using an untested design strategy that harnesses specific classes of environmental nuclear magnetism.”

Zadrozny sees research as an extension of the classroom.

“The idea that research and education could somehow be treated as distinct entities has always struck me as off,” he said. “By doing research, we are creating new knowledge that is meant to be shared with others. That is why I try to bring the same enthusiasm for my scientific research into the classroom, and it feels great to be recognized for that effort.”

Jeff Bandar – designing new catalysts and improving undergraduate courses

The Bandar Group focuses on the design and study of new catalysts and catalytic processes with applications for pharmaceutical, natural products, and industrial chemical synthesis.

In his proposal for the Cottrell award, Bandar highlighted methods to substitute a single carbon-fluorine bond on trifluoromethylarenes to form difluorinated derivatives.

“Difluorinated compounds are becoming increasingly popular in medicinal chemistry and are also studied for use as a pesticides and fertilizers,” he said. “However, it’s currently difficult to prepare these compounds rapidly or to access complex variants.”

The Bandar Group is taking readily available trifluoromethylarenes and giving chemists a simple way to transform them into almost any difluorinated variant. By doing this, they hope to improve large scale preparations of difluoromethylarenes or enable biological studies on new compounds.

On the education side, Bandar proposed to develop new course materials and learning activities for undergraduate organic chemistry courses to better serve the diverse group of students who take these classes.

“This award will allow us to commit more effort toward improving these large undergraduate courses,” said Bandar. “Specifically, we want to frame our learning and practice sessions around the multiple career aspirations of students who typically take these classes – veterinary medicine, neuroscience, chemical engineering, and environmental sustainability, to name a few.”

Research Corporation for Science Advancement

Research Corporation for Science Advancement is a private foundation that has been around for more than 100 years. RCSA aids basic research in the physical sciences at colleges and universities. Once awarded, Cottrell Scholars enter the RCSA national community of individuals who produce significant research and educational outcomes. Recipients are also invited to attend the annual Cottrell Scholar Conference where they can exchange ideas and insights with new and established Cottrell Scholars.

Previous Cottrell Scholar awardees from CSU include Peter Dorhout (1994), Grzegorz Szamel (1997), James Nielson (2017), and Garret Miyake (2018) – all from the Department of Chemistry.