Cottrell Scholar Awards - 2014
Quantitative Assessment of Flex Activation in Polymer Mechanochemistry
Boydston is a leading scientist in the relatively new field of mechanochemistry -- the study of chemical reactions triggered by mechanical force, such as bending, hitting or flexing.
His work is focused on flex activation in polymers -- generally defined as large molecules composed of many repeated subunits, known as monomers. This covers everything from cheap plastic bags to the DNA in our cells.
Boydston is using advanced computer modeling as well as work in the lab to study the relative contributions of bond stretching and bending motions in the activation of isomeric mechanophores. (Isomers contain the same number of atoms of each element, but have different arrangements of atoms within their resulting compounds.)
“The results are expected to expand our ability to design materials that respond autonomously to physical force,” he said.
The Cottrell Scholar Award will also help fund Boydston’s teaching projects. He intends to create a hybrid in-class/online version of Introductory Organic Chemistry that uses a flipped classroom model. It is a new form of teaching in which students learn by watching video lectures, usually at home; and the assigned problems once considered homework are tackled collectively in class with other students while teachers provide guidance instead of lecturing.
Boydston says he believes this form of instruction can bridge the gap between textbook knowledge and the problem-solving that "real scientists" do in the lab