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Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Congratulations to recent graduate Danielle Mai, who was chosen for a prestigious Arnold O. Beckman Postdoctoral Fellows Award.

Mai graduated with a PhD in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from the University of Illinois in 2016 and is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her project is developing bioinspired polymers for rapid and selective removal of biological toxins. Biotoxins pose significant and unpredictable threats to human health (e.g. biological warfare agents and lethal food contaminants), but current treatment limits are limited, costly, and variable, she said.

Danielle Mai headshot
Danielle Mai

“We are inspired by nature and polymer physics to develop a new paradigm for bioseparations, which is based on selectively permeable pores in the cell nucleus. Our technology could critically enable bioseparations ranging from biotoxin removal to blood-based diagnostics to therapeutic monoclonal antibody purification,” Mai said.

Congrats also to Freddy Nguyen, a 2015 Illinois Chemistry PhD graduate. He is a postdoctoral researcher at MIT working on development of nanosensors for in-vivo monitoring of cancer therapeutics.

The Beckman postdoctoral fellows program supports postdoctoral scholars with the highest potential for success in an independent academic career in chemistry and the life sciences, to assist in their transition from “mentored yet independent” postdoctoral projects to an independent, tenure-track position. These individuals are expected to become the next generation of leaders and innovators in science, engineering, and technology, according to the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation. The organization provides grants to researchers and non-profit research institutions.

After completing her postdoc, Mai plans to continue her research at the intersection of polymer science, biophysics, and materials engineering as a new investigator.

“I am particularly interested in experimental multi-scale dynamics of polymers, complex fluids, and biomaterials. Importantly, the Arnold O. Beckman Postdoctoral Fellows Award provides independence in my current research, a diverse network of peers and mentors, and flexibility to cultivate my research vision as I prepare to apply for tenure-track faculty positions,” Mai said.



Congratulations to Danielle Mai, who was recently recognized with a Lam Outstanding Graduate Student Award.

Illinois ChBE graduate student Danielle Mai
Danielle Mai

Mai is a graduate student in Associate Professor Charles Schroeder’s research group, where she started a new line of research by extending single molecule techniques to study the dynamics of branched polymers. Her approach holds the potential to fundamentally change our understanding of the response of branched polymers, which exhibit strikingly different behavior compared to linear polymers. Ongoing work by Mai and other members of the Schroeder group will advance the large-scale production of polymers for commodity and energy applications.

The Lam awards are presented to talented graduate students who are enrolled in the departments of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, Mechanical Science and Engineering, or Physics. Each recipient receives $5,000.

Lam Research Corporation of Fremont, Calif. is a major supplier of wafer fabrication equipment and services to the worldwide semiconductor industry. The company has been advancing semiconductor manufacturing for more than 30 years.


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