James Ferri, professor and head of chemical and biomolecular engineering, has received a Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award from the Camille & Henry Dreyfus Foundation. The award, which provides an unrestricted research grant of $60,000 over a period of five years, is given for accomplishment in scholarly research with undergraduates, as well as a demonstrated commitment to teaching.
“My goal in teaching is to enable students to learn how to learn,” says Ferri. “I want to develop their sense of curiosity and prepare them to seek answers to their own questions. Teaching is an extraordinarily rewarding endeavor. I believe the best teachers enable students to become their own teachers and equip them to address current and future challenges.”
Ferri will use the grant to continue to engage his students with contemporary issues in the chemical sciences.
He plans to “design and synthesize stimulus responsive nanoparticles using thermoresponsive polymer grafts to provide switchable control over surface chemistry and macroscopic dispersion (foams and emulsions) stability.” The goals of the research are to “demonstrate a stimulus-responsive design of dispersion stability and a mechanistic decoupling of interfacial and colloidal effects associated with foam de/stabilization.”
In addition to involving students in the research, Ferri will collaborate with colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam, Germany, and at the CNR-Instituto per l’Energetica e le Interfasi in Genoa, Italy.
A tireless mentor in undergraduate research, Ferri has worked extensively with students on a one-on-one basis through independent studies and honors projects, as well as including them in his own research with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), NASA, the Max Planck Society, and the College’s EXCEL Scholars program. Many of his students have presented their research at national and international conferences and have received national honors such as the Morris K. Udall Scholarship, the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, and the Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society fellowship.
Ferri also is a recipient of the Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship from the Republic of Germany. At Lafayette, he has received the Thomas Roy and Lura Forrest Jones Lecture Award and the Marquis Distinguished Teaching Award. His total external research funding exceeds $1.3 million. He has been a visiting scientist at Northwestern University in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, an invited guest of the Chinese National Academy of Science in Beijing, and a visiting scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam, Germany.
“Education in the chemical sciences—particularly chemical engineering—requires not only grounding in the technical fundamentals, but also the development of critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills as well as an awareness of the global community and the ability to function in a multidisciplinary context,” he says. “I am excited to be a part of this educational process at Lafayette. Research provides an ideal platform for integration of these skill sets.”