Frank Leibfarth awarded UNC Hettleman Prize



October 3, 2022 | By UNC-Chapel Hill Chemistry Communication

We are excited to announce that Dr. Frank Leibfarth, Associate Professor of Chemistry, has been recognized as a recipient of the 2022 Ruth and Phillip Hettleman Prize for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement for his research contributions to the fields of polymer stereochemistry and polymer functionalization. 

Established in 1986 by the late Phillip Hettleman, a member of the Carolina class of 1921, and his wife Ruth, the primary aim of the award is to recognize the achievements of outstanding junior faculty. Recipients of the Hettleman Prize are recognized at a Fall Faculty Council meeting and invited to deliver a presentation on their research during the University’s annual University Research Week, which will be starting on October 10th this year. Along with these honors, recipients also receive a $5,000 dollar cash award. The Hettleman Prize is considered one of Carolina’s most prestigious acknowledgements of faculty excellence, and we would like to congratulate Dr. Leibfarth for his work being recognized. 

In addition to Dr. Leibfarth, this year’s other Hettleman Prize awardees are: Danielle Christmas, associate professor in the department of English and comparative literature within the College of Arts and Sciences; Yuliya Pylayeva-Gupta, associate professor in the department of genetics within the School of Medicine; and Seth A. Berkowitz, assistant professor in the department of medicine within the School of Medicine.

About Dr. Leibfarth 

Dr. Leibfarth in the lab, using equipment.

Dr. Leibfarth’s research is focused on developing new methods for the synthesis of functional polymers with the goal of discovering and studying their emergent macromolecular behavior. His approach is rooted in the belief that the convergence of organic, continuous-flow, and polymer chemistries holds the key to making materials smarter, more functional, and more sustainable for the future. Currently, his group’s focus centers around creating methods to control stereochemistry in ionic polymerizations, uncovering enhanced function in commodity polymers through selective C–H functionalization, and creating automated approaches for the synthesis of unique polymer architectures with novel functions. 

Leibfarth joined the UNC Chemistry Faculty in 2016 and has since earned acclaim for his innovative research approaches to polymer and materials chemistry, teaching, and mentoring. He was named one of Popular Science’s “Brilliant 10” roster of 2021, which recognizes 10 early-career scientists and engineers across the nation who have the potential to transform the world with their innovative approaches to key issues.  

He has been a recipient of numerous awards and other recognitions such as:  

Just to name just a few. 

Dr. Leibfarth with his lab group, as of May 2022.He has also worked hard to share his knowledge with others. To that end, he has been recognized as a Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Awardee and as a recipient of the UNC Tanner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching (2021). Dr. Leibfarth and his group have also done significant outreach to groups such as the Wonder Connection, a UNC Hospital program designed to bring joy to hospitalized children and teens via hands-on science experiences. He also shares his knowledge and research with others via Ted Talks, multiple podcasts with different channels, and many other interviews with media outlets.

Dr. Leibfarth, with his hard work and unending perseverance, truly embodies the UNC mission of leading change to improve society and to help solve the world’s greatest problems.