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Catherine Mulzer

Science and Technology Award 2017: Americas

On 23 August 2017, Cathy Mulzer received the DSM Science and Technology Award at the National American Chemical Society Meeting and Exposition in Washington, DC. The award recognized her work as a graduate student in chemistry at Cornell University in William Dichtel’s research group. Her research focused on bringing Covalent Organic Frameworks (COFs) into the electrochemical energy storage field.
Catherine Mulzer receives DSM Science and Technology Award Americas 2017 from Rolf van Benthem

Chemistry beginnings

“I come from a family of chemists! Both my father and brother are physical chemists, I married a chemist, and my father-in-law is a chemist, so it seems at every stage of my life I’ve encountered chemistry. Although I’ve been interested in science from a young age, I attribute my decision to pursue a chemical education to my high school chemistry teacher because of her ability to relate her lessons to sixteen-year-olds while challenging them to live the scientific method. In 2011, I earned a B.Sc. in Chemistry from Marist College, and I owe a lot to my advisor there, Prof. Jocelyn Nadeau. Together, we explored conducting polymers through rational design, synthesis, and thorough characterization. It was at this time that my interest in organic materials chemistry was sparked.”

Energy Storage Research

“I met my PhD supervisor, Prof. William Dichtel, at the national ACS meeting in Boston in 2010. After hearing his presentation on Covalent Organic Frameworks (COFs), I knew it was what I wanted to focus on in my research. COFs are an emerging class of crystalline two- or three-dimensional polymers with inherently high surface areas. Their beauty lies in their tunability because of their well-ordered nature, which is why we selected these materials as candidates for electrochemical energy storage devices. We envisioned using the materials to obtain the best of both worlds: high power density from their inherently high surface areas akin to capacitors, along with a large energy density because of organized redox reactions, similar to batteries. However, we quickly realized that COFs were limited in performance due to their poor inherent conductivity. In the end, we modified our system by incorporating a conducting polymer within the ordered pores of the COF. It was this modification that increased our energy and power density by an order of magnitude and has made COFs useful for energy storage.”

Sustainability research

“As a society, we’re making steps towards a more sustainable future by conducting research in labs. However, just doing research is not sufficient. As scientists we rely on preeminent companies such as DSM to support our research efforts and give us venues to disseminate our findings inside and outside of the science community. In my future work, I strive to incorporate sustainability research into my daily life.”