UArizona Honors Faculty with New Distinguished Innovation & Entrepreneurship Awards

May 2, 2022

Two faculty members from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry have been recognized for their commitment to impactful innovation

Every spring the University of Arizona Office of the Provost honors faculty with awards for excellence. This year 22 faculty members from across the university received honors. In their announcement of the awards to the UArizona community, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Liesl Folks and Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Andrea Romero wrote, “These awards are the highest faculty honors that our University bestows. They allow us to recognize the contributions of outstanding colleagues who have had significant impacts locally, nationally, and globally.”

For the first time, two new awards were presented in collaboration with the Office of Research, Innovation, and Impact. Professor Jeffrey Pyun and Assistant Professor Thomas Gianetti were recognized with awards for innovation and entrepreneurship; both demonstrated significant involvement in expanding the impact of their research to the public good through a focus on commercialization. Each honor comes with an allocation of university funds to help them continue their scholarly work.

Both Pyun and Gianetti hold appointments in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, associated with both the College of Science and the College of Medicine – Tucson. Both are also members of the BIO5 Institute.

Both have worked closely with Tech Launch Arizona (TLA), the UArizona office that commercializes inventions stemming from research and innovation, on developing strategies to maximize the impact of their work by translating their research out into the world through commercial pathways.

“With their commitments to furthering the impact of their research while maintaining a focus on their scientific fields of research, Jeff and Thomas are immensely deserving of these honors,” said TLA Assistant Vice President Doug Hockstad. “I’ve been honored to work with them and excited for TLA to continue that work to move their inventions forward.”

Professor Jeff Pyun, University Distinguished Innovation & Entrepreneurship Award

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Jeff Pyun
Jeff Pyun

Professor Jeff Pyun is the university’s first recipient of the University Distinguished Innovation & Entrepreneurship Award. The award was established to acknowledge those who have demonstrated significant involvement in expanding the impact of research to the public good through innovation and commercialization.

The nomination that Pyun’s colleagues submitted outlined an extensive record of research and innovation, specifically in polymer and materials chemistry. They noted his strong focus on translating the inventions from his research to the marketplace, creating impact and improving the lives of Arizonans and people around the world.

The review committee specifically noted his groundbreaking invention of inverse vulcanization, which transforms elemental sulfur – a waste product of petroleum refining – into useful polymeric sulfur, commodity polymers, and nanoparticle materials. Pyun has applied these technologys to the development of batteries to enable electric vehicles, new plastic optics for low-cost cameras for the automobile industry, and plastic magnets.

Pyun will receive $5,000 in funding to further his work.

Assistant Professor Thomas Gianetti, University Early Career Innovation & Entrepreneurship Award

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Thomas Gianetti
Thomas Gianetti

Assistant Professor Thomas Gianetti is the university’s first recipient of the University Early Career Innvation & Entrepreneurship Award. The award honors an early career faculty member who as demonstrated significant involvement in expanding the impact of their research to the public good through innovation and commercialization.

In his nomination, his colleagues noted his engagement in entrepreneurship, his innovation in carbocation synthesis, his significant achievement in entrepreneurial education, and his dedication to translation and impact. Gianetti’s activities range from basic research to translation; he has worked with Tech Launch Arizona to file a number of patents, and has also launched a startup company to bring the key products of his work to create societal impact. Gianetti even created a new course to teach the next generations of entrerpeneurs, policymakers, and scientists how to work together to address issues like climate change, pollution, and renewable energy.

Gianetti will receive $2,500 in funding to advance his research.

Paul Tumarkin, Assistant Director, Marketing & Communications