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Frank Leibfarth in his lab, wearing a lab coat, gloves, and safety goggles, leans over a collection of metallic and plastic equipment.

(photo by Donn Young)

Chemist Frank Leibfarth has been named the inaugural Institute for Convergent Science faculty fellow.

Leibfarth’s research tests molecules to turn plastic waste into useful materials — a potential method of recycling that could reshape the industry and prevent recyclable materials from ending up in landfills, incinerators or as environmental pollutants. It’s the type of interdisciplinary, translational research that the Institute for Convergent Science was created to support.

The institute is a pan-campus unit working to expand the scale and scope of Carolina’s impact on society by translating discovery into solutions through invention, innovation and enterprise.

Fellowships place the investment on researchers instead of specific projects. Leibfarth, an associate professor in the department of chemistry, can choose from his full scope of research, including how to make PFAS-contaminated water safe to drink, when deciding which issues to tackle in the coming years.

“Being named as the inaugural ICS faculty fellow is not only a great honor but also an exciting opportunity to more intimately connect our innovations in the lab with stakeholders outside of the chemistry department,” Leibfarth said. “My goal is for this opportunity to enable us to think through how our science can make an impact beyond our fundamental discoveries and ultimately contribute to the thriving innovation infrastructure at UNC-Chapel Hill.”

Published in the Fall 2023 issue | The Scoop

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