NSF Award Recognizes Researcher on the Rise
Honor Given to Early Career Faculty for Outstanding Teaching, Scholarship
Feb. 2, 2010
Dr. Mihaela C. (Iovu) Stefan has received a distinguished National Science Foundation (NSF) Career Award, given to junior faculty members who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research and education.
The award is for $490,000 over five years.
Stefan, an assistant professor of chemistry and affiliate to the Materials Science and Engineering Department, has taught at UT Dallas since August 2007. She is an expert on polymer chemistry and organic electronics, which she uses to study renewable energy.
“Career awards are provided by the NSF to support the most promising young faculty members in the U.S.,” said Dr. Myron Salamon, dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “We are delighted that Professor Stefan has been recognized as one of these elite scholars. This award will enable her to continue researching electrically conducting polymers and to incorporate her research results into her classroom teaching.”
Stefan’s funding will advance research into new semiconducting polymers – plastic electronics – with adjustable, or tunable, energy levels. The use of semiconducting polymers in solar cells is a promising avenue of research aimed at achieving less expensive, more efficient solar cells. Stefan expects to improve the efficiency of organic solar cells by developing and testing new semiconducting polymers with tunable opto-electronic properties.
“We are very pleased with Dr. Stefan’s award,” said Dr. Bruce Gnade, vice president for research. “It is a strong validation of her research and a very positive indicator of the quality of our young faculty.”
In addition to funding research, the award allows Stefan to launch an interdisciplinary research and education program at the interface between organic/polymer chemistry, materials science and semiconductor technologies.
“The funding allows me to work on developing a course in organic electronics for graduate students,” Stefan said. “The course would be designed for students in chemistry and materials science and engineering.”
Stefan, who won the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics Outstanding Teaching Award in 2009, teaches organic chemistry and polymer chemistry for undergraduates along with graduate-level chemistry and materials science courses. According to her colleagues, she bridges between first-class teaching and topflight research with a deftness and skill that distinguishes her among rising faculty.