Chemical engineering professor awarded Langmuir Lectureship

Kristen Fichthorn, Penn State Merrell Fenske Professor of Chemical Engineering and professor of physics, at right, reviews a graduate student's research in December 2019. Credit: Jamie Oberdick / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The American Chemistry Society (ACS) Colloid & Surface Division recently awarded the 2020 Langmuir Lectureship to Kristen Fichthorn, Penn State Merrell Fenske Professor of Chemical Engineering and professor of physics.

The lectureship recognizes leading researchers working in the interdisciplinary field of colloid and surface chemistry. The selection committee is composed of representatives from the journal Langmuir and the ACS Division of Colloid & Surface Chemistry.

“I was delighted to learn that Kristen was selected for the 2020 Langmuir Lectureship,” said Phillip Savage, head of the Penn State Department of Chemical Engineering and Walter L. Robb Family Endowed Chair. “It is a perfect way to recognize her intellectual leadership in the field of colloid and surface chemistry."

As part of her acceptance, Fichthorn presented a lectureship talk on Aug. 17 at the 2020 Fall ACS National Meeting, which was held virtually. Her talk was titled “Surface Science of Shape-Selective Metal Nanocrystal Synthesis from First Principles.”

Fichthorn’s research focuses on understanding the synthesis of metal nanocrystals, crystalline particles of metallic materials, using theory and computer simulations. Metal nanocrystals that are precisely synthesized into specific shapes and sizes for particular applications hold potential for a variety of commercial uses, such as smart windows that can be tinted electronically and new methods of saltwater desalination. However, only a handful of technologies currently harness this potential because it is difficult to achieve high, selective yields of precisely engineered metal nanocrystals.

Part of the reason for this is the lack of a single theoretical method that can describe the many aspects of a typical nanocrystal synthesis, which is highly complex. Fichthorn has brought together various theoretical methods to describe these syntheses using multi-scale modeling. Multi-scale modeling uses multiple models at different temporal and spatial scales to describe a system or process. Her studies, by themselves or in combination with experiments, have the potential to enhance capabilities to design and successfully synthesize specific forms of metal nanocrystals for large-scale commercial use.

Fichthorn received a bachelor of science in chemical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 1985 and her doctoral degree in chemical engineering from the University of Michigan in 1989. She spent one year as an IBM postdoctoral fellow in the University of California Department of Chemical Engineering before joining the Penn State Department of Chemical Engineering in 1990. 

In addition to being recognized for her outstanding research and teaching, Fichthorn is a recipient of the National Science Foundation’s Presidential Young Investigator Award (1990) and an Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Research Fellowship (1998). She is a fellow of both the American Physical Society (2011) and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (2017).

Last Updated September 09, 2020