The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa assistant professor one of its most prestigious awards for junior faculty. Matthew Cain, assistant professor of chemistry, received a $675,000 grant over a five-year term from the NSF Early Career Development program.
The award is bestowed on teacher-scholars pursuing cutting-edge research while simultaneously advancing excellence in education.
As society adapts to combat the problems associated with climate change, environmental degradation and pollution, the ability to transform widely accessible chemicals into higher value products in a cheaper and more environmentally-friendly fashion becomes increasingly important. Currently, these transformations are reserved for expensive and toxic transition metals, but Cain is attempting to discover if these reactions can be performed by earth abundant elements like phosphorus. If these reactions can be made catalytic with phosphorus-based complexes, then specialty products produced by the pharmaceuticals, agricultural and polymer industries will become widely accessible to the public at a much cheaper cost.
In addition, Cain has initiated a three-tiered approach of expose, attract and inspire to encourage the local Native Hawaiian and Asian-American population to get involved in STEM education. To date, numerous undergraduates working under Cain have gone onto the top graduate programs in the country.
More about Cain
Cain earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry at the State University of New York, College at Geneseo and a PhD in chemistry from Dartmouth College. He was a postdoctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, working under the supervision of Richard R. Schrock, the 2005 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry before joining the Department of Chemistry at UH Mānoa in July 2014.