A polymer and materials chemist who started her faculty career at UConn two years ago has won a National Science Foundation early career development award.
Rajeswari Kasi, assistant professor of chemistry in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, won the five-year, $475,000 award for research into new polymer-based organic and hybrid materials that can be tailored for a particular function.
Her work focuses on materials that respond to physical or chemical stimuli – heat, light, electrical or magnetic fields, for example.
She looks for a fundamental understanding of the materials and applications for them, such as encapsulating a drug in a polymer that responds to a magnetic field so that it can be used in an MRI scan to find cancer.
The award she won, Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER), is the NSF’s most prestigious award in support of the career development of promising teacher-scholars who integrate research and education.
Kasi’s research group includes five Ph.D. students, three of whom will receive support from the grant.
The research is a big change from her postdoctoral work, Kasi says. At the University of Minnesota, where she was a postdoctoral fellow for two years, she studied block copolymers, in which one molecule includes long sequences of two different chemical units that usually do not mix.
They can form structures at the nano-scopic level and have biomedical and electronic applications.
Kasi received her Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts in 2004 and her master’s degree from the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras in 1998. She is a member of the interdisciplinary Polymer Program at UConn.