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  • Debbie Schneiderman, Ph.D., thesis award winner

    Debbie Schneiderman, Ph.D., earns top dissertation awards

Deborah “Debbie” Schneiderman, Ph.D., has received the University of Minnesota's and the Department of Chemistry's top dissertation awards. She received the Graduate School's "Best Dissertation Award" in Physical Sciences & Engineering for 2017. Earlier this year, she received the 2016 Award for Doctoral Thesis Excellence, which honors outstanding Department of Chemistry graduate students for their doctoral thesis research.

Her research adviser at the University of Minnesota was Professor Marc Hillmyer, who is director of the Center for Sustainable Polymers. Her overall research interest was synthetic polymer chemistry. For her thesis research, Schneiderman focused on the synthesis of degradable polymers, specifically elastomers, plastics, and foams from renewable resources. Among other things, she collaborated with the Professor Kechun Zhang’s group in the Department of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science to develop a semisynthetic method to make a lactone monomer. Schneiderman showed that it could be polymerized and that the resulting polymer could be further exploited to make materials with a wide range of physical properties. 

Schneiderman was part of a team of CSP student researchers who won the grand prize in the Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award for their project, Sustainable and Recyclable Polyurethane Foams. Using renewable feedstocks, they developed mechanically tunable, chemically recyclable polyurethane foams and elastomers. These materials are more sustainable than conventional non-degradable petroleum-derived polyurethanes. This project also won the BASF 150th Anniversary North American Science Competition: Lightweight Solutions for a Sustainable Future. In addition, she also received at 2015-16 Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, and the 2016 DMS Science and Technology Award.

Schneiderman says that she learned a lot about polymer synthesis and characterization while at the University of Minnesota, plus more about bubble gum than she ever really wanted to know, the importance of ChemDraw hotkeys, and how to shorten/change a talk in real time using PowerPoint hyperlinks.

Some of her most memorable moments include helping with the Science for All outreach program, especially show the kids a Rubens tube and blowing up pumpkins with calcium carbide; attempting to play softball with the Hillmyer group’s team, Sexy and Sustainable; tagging along on the inorganic canoe trips; and going to Germany with “team foam” and getting stuck there.

Currently, Schneiderman is a post-doctoral scholar in the Institute for Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago, working with Professor Stuart Rowan. Her current research is focused on liquid crystalline elastomers and dynamic covalent networks.

The Award for Doctoral Thesis Excellence is designed to honor outstanding Department of Chemistry graduate students for their doctoral thesis research. A committee of faculty members evaluated all of this year's award candidates. Schneiderman’s thesis research stood out as the very best in the group of outstanding thesis packages. The best thesis award includes a $500 honorarium. Her name will be added to the department’s plaque recognizing annual winners of this award.