Renowned chemist joins UH research team
UH recently added another great asset to its research team. Maurice Brookhart, a chemist and member of the National Academy of Sciences, will be continuing his investigation at UH on specific chemistry compounds that one day will lead to more efficient manufacturing of certain materials, such as plastic. The Cougar spoke with Brookhart and asked him about his new position here at UH.
The Cougar: Why did you decide to join the UH faculty?
Maurice Brookhart: I enjoy chemical research, especially the challenge of inventing new and useful chemical transformations. (I) wanted to continue work in this area and contribute to chemistry. UH provided a great opportunity for me to do so.
TC: What classes are you planning on teaching, specifically? Are you just conducting research here?
MB: Until my research laboratories are up and running completely, I will be concentrating on research. Eventually, I will help teach graduate-level courses in my specialties, organometallic chemistry and polymer chemistry.
TC: What are you most excited for?
MB: I particularly look forward to working with Professor Olafs Daugulis in the Department of Chemistry, who I have known and collaborated with for a number of years. I am also excited to contribute to the growth of the department. The new chemistry research laboratories, where my research group will work, are beautifully equipped. With such great facilities, we should be very productive.
TC: What drew you to science and inspired you to become a chemist?
MB: My story is probably much like many scientists. I grew up in a very small town in the mountains of Western Maryland where my mother taught high school science before raising a family. She, along with my high school chemistry teacher, sparked my interest in chemistry and science in general. Like many high school youngsters, I spent hours building rockets and messing about with my chemistry set.
TC: The research you’re conducting may lead to more efficient production of some types of plastics – can you explain this research in layman’s terms?
MB: We are interested in understanding the fundamental steps that produce plastics from simple molecules derived from petroleum, such as ethylene. If we understand how plastics are formed, we can design more efficient ways to manufacture them, as well as alter their structures to produce new materials with improved properties.
TC: What other research or work are you hoping to conduct at UH? Why is it important?
MB: We will also examine how metals can be used to activate carbon-hydrogen bonds. By activating carbon-hydrogen bonds, we may be able to prepare useful value-added chemicals from inexpensive hydrocarbons, such as methane and ethane.
TC: Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you, your work or your plans for UH?
MB: The growth of the department and University has been phenomenal in recent years. I look forward to contributing to its growth by helping the department and University recruit new faculty with fresh ideas and enthusiasm.