Maryland MSE Scholars Named to Faculty Positions

news story image

Qi Dong and Xizheng Wang

Two postdoctoral scholars in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) are launching their faculty careers at premier higher education institutions. 

Qi (Tony) Dong, assistant research scientist in the MSE department, has been named an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry at Purdue University beginning in January 2024.  While at UMD, Dong for the first time demonstrated a sustainable, wood-derived, metal-organic framework for ion transport applications. Results of his research were published in Science Advances. Dong also pioneered in non-equilibrium chemical manufacturing using Joule-heating. Dong’s work was highlighted in the May 2022 issue of Nature as a cover article, where he and his colleagues reported highly efficient methane pyrolysis and ammonia synthesis reactions using electrified pulsed heating.

More recently, Dong’s work on plastic recycling has been highlighted in the April 2023 issue of Nature. Dong and colleagues demonstrated a catalyst-free and far-from-equilibrium depolymerization process that can control reaction progress and pathway to convert plastics to monomers with high yields. The process holds great economic promise as the generated monomers can be reused in subsequent polymerization reactions for another product life cycle or as chemical feedstocks for other processes.

Dong’s lab at Purdue will continue to develop novel chemical processes and materials for solving urgent energy, environmental, and sustainability challenges, including industrial decarbonization and green manufacturing. “We will be taking advantage of the increasingly available renewable electricity, to leverage and advance a range of electrothermal and electrochemical techniques for chemical synthesis and material upcycling,” he describes. 

Dong has also served as president and chief technology officer of Polymer-X Inc., a technology company that converts plastic waste, hydrocarbons, carbon dioxide, biomass, and other materials into value-added chemicals using innovative electrothermal methods.  He co-founded the company with Herbert Rabin Distinguished Professor and Director of the Center for Materials Innovation Liangbing Hu at UMD and Robert Porter Patterson Professor Yiguang Ju, a faculty member in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University.

Xizheng (Zoe) Wang, PhD ’18, chemistry, is now an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of California, Irvine. Her research focuses on sustainable manufacturing and renewable materials that aim at decarbonization process.

Wang, who came to the United States 10 years ago from her native country, China, has spent the last decade at UMD.  “I have a passion for materials synthesis and the study of ultra-high temperature manufacturing,” she says.  “At UMD, my work gained so much exposure in my collaborations with chemists, material scientists, chemical and mechanical engineers, and physicists.” 

Most recently Wang served as assistant research scientist in MSE and manager for the Center for Materials Innovation, guided by Center Director Liangbing Hu. “This position allowed me to transition from researcher to a scientist managing the daily operation of a lab,” describes Wang.  “Professor Hu gave me clear instructions on how to transition to this role and how to balance the demands of a manager with the demands of a scientist.” 

Her research and publications at UMD include:  the creation of  all-natural biodegradable straws as a promising solution to replace petroleum-derived plastic straws published in Advanced Functional Materials; the design of an ultrahigh-temperature melt printing method to achieve rapid multi-elemental melting and uniform mixing for multi-principal elemental alloy (MPEA) fabrication published in Nature Communications; and the development of synthesis and manufacturing methods to control the morphologies of high entropy nanoparticles published in Advanced Materials

Published August 17, 2023