Harth Named American Chemical Society Fellow

Chemistry Professor Eva Harth Also Receives $321K Collaborative NSF Grant

Professor of chemistry Eva Harth is one of 49 members of the American Chemical Society’s 2021 Fellows.

Eva Harth
Harth became involved with ACS in 2016 when she became secretary of PMSE, the Polymer and Material Science Engineering division of ACS.

The designation is awarded to a member who has made exceptional contributions to the science or profession and has provided excellent volunteer service to the ACS community.

“I am humbled by the recognition,” said Harth, who is also director of the Welch Center of Excellence in Polymer Chemistry at the University of Houston’s College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “I am very grateful that my scientific work and work with the community is being recognized.”

She adds that if ACS did not exist, she could not have become involved with her science community. “They try to engage young scientists through their connections to industry and with their community-building work.”

Harth became involved with the society in 2016 when she became secretary of PMSE, the Polymer and Material Science Engineering division of ACS. She rose through the ranks, and in 2020, became chair of the division.

“It was a very challenging year to be chair, because all the meetings were cancelled,” she said. “But it also got us thinking about how to better engage with our members since we could not meet in person anymore. This opened completely new avenues to get people involved and inspired changes in the division as to how we can make things better.”

She adds that being a part of the ACS Fellows program is an opportunity to raise awareness about chemistry postgraduate degrees.

“What the community is considering now is how to make this profession more attractive to young people. Chemists do a lot of things. We develop drugs; we develop materials. But there is a wrong perception of what chemists do, because there are not a lot of role models. The public knows what a doctor does, but they do not really know what a chemist does and where they are working and making an impact.”

The 2021 fellows were honored at a hybrid ceremony during the ACS Fall 2021 Meeting in Atlanta on Tuesday, August 24.

NSF Grant Funds Polymer Research

Harth, along with Professor Krzysztof Matyjaszewski of Carnegie Mellon University, received a $321,385 grant from the National Science Foundation to fund their research on copolymers.

Harth will continue her work creating block copolymers that act as a bridge to mix and melt together polymers with polyolefins, such as polyethylene and polypropylene, some of the most popular plastics in use today.

Block copolymers, Harth said, improve plastics so scientists do not have to necessarily develop new catalysts to create plastics. They act as an additive to current commodity plastics.

“This can be a plastic which is freshly made or that has come out the waste stream,” said Harth. “But with this block copolymer, it gives the plastic a completely new property. Scientists can consider if they want to blend two polymers together and add this block copolymer to create a completely new material. It’s a smart additive that can be used in many different ways.”

- Rebeca Trejo, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics