Awards Database

Cottrell Scholar Awards - 2013

Ognjen Š. Miljanic

University of Houston

Lessons from Nature: Compartmentalization, Reaction Discovery, and Parallel Synthesis in Kinetically Self-Sorting Libraries

It can take considerable time, material, labor and numerous exacting steps in the laboratory for scientists to synthesize the sophisticated molecules we need for industry and medicine. By contrast, starting with complex “soups” of precursors in living cells, nature elegantly and simultaneously creates even more complex molecules with incredible precision. Miljanic hopes to imitate nature by achieving what is called “molecular self-sorting” in synthetic (manmade) mixtures of chemical compounds. If he succeeds, he intends to use that process to rapidly discover new chemical reactions. The ultimate goal is to begin to emulate, at least in a primitive way, the signaling and compartmentalization processes through which nature efficiently manufactures many of the molecules necessary for life. Miljanic then aims to apply these insights in the preparation of new molecules for use in sensing, separations, and energy relevant application. The educational portion of Miljanic’s project will lead to the creation of “eLectures”—digitized searchable recordings of his lectures that will replace textbooks. He also plans to develop a general education class on the scientific, engineering and policy implications of various energy sources. Additionally, he will involve undergraduate and local high-school students in original research in his laboratory. Finally, Miljanic will use 3D printing to create customized teaching models for use in Organic and Physical Organic Chemistry classes.

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