Scott Phillips receives Benkovic Early Career Professorship

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09 March 2016

Scott Phillips, an associate professor of chemistry at Penn State University and holder of the Lou Martarano Career Development Professorship, has been honored with the inaugural Stephen and Patricia Benkovic Early Career Professorship. Stephen J. Benkovic, an Evan Pugh Professor of Chemistry and Holder of the Eberly Family Chair in Chemistry at Penn State University, and Patricia Benkovic, a research associate in chemistry at Penn State, established the professorship to support outstanding early career faculty in the Penn State Eberly College of Science. The professorship offers early recognition for outstanding accomplishments and provides financial support to promising young faculty members to encourage establishing a commitment to teaching and explore new areas of research.

Phillips focuses his research on organic and environmental chemistry, the design and synthesis of molecules with unique functions, analytical and bioanalytical chemistry, and materials chemistry. In one project, Phillips is developing materials that respond to external signals by changing shape, function, and/or surface properties. Phillips also is working on a project in which he uses organic chemistry to create diagnostic devices that provide all the functions typically obtained with laboratory instruments, but that use only organic reactions. These systems may be useful in applications that require portable and inexpensive devices for detecting disease or pollution; for example, in the developing world and in hospital emergency rooms. A second program in this area focuses on reaction networks that are self-perpetuating, the simplest of which is an autocatalytic reaction, in which a molecule makes more of itself. Phillips plans to expand autocatalytic behavior into more complex reaction networks, with a goal of developing systems that provide useful functions and byproducts.

Phillips's previous awards include being named an Emerging Investigator by the journals Analytical Methods and Polymer Chemistry in 2015, and the journal Chemical Communications in 2014. He was awarded the Arthur F. Findeis Award for Achievement by a Young Analytical Scientist in 2015, the Eli Lilly and Company Young Investigator Award in Analytical Chemistry in 2013, an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship in 2012, and a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation (NSF), also in 2012. He was honored with three 3M Non-Tenured Faculty Awards in 2010, 2011, and 2012, and he received a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Young Faculty Award from the United States Department of Defense in 2010. In that same year, he won an Outstanding Professor in Chemistry award from the honor society Alpha Chi Sigma. In 2009, Phillips won a Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award and a research award from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In that same year, he also won a Beckman Young Investigator Award, a Thieme Chemistry Journal Award, and a Penn State Eberly College of Science Dean's Climate and Diversity Award. In 2008, he won a New Faculty Award from The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation.

Prior to joining the Penn State faculty in 2008, Phillips worked from 2004 to 2008 as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, where he developed new materials and detection platforms for use in drug development. He also synthesized chemical compounds with anticancer properties from marine organisms. Phillips earned a doctoral degree in chemistry at the University of California at Berkeley in 2004. He earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry at the California State University in San Bernardino in 1999.

[ S. J. S. ]