You are here

  • Lee Penn

    Director of Undergraduate Studies, Distinguished University Teaching Professor, Merck Professor of Chemistry, Institute on the Environment Resident Fellow

    • Experimental Physical Chemistry, Nanocrystalline Materials
    • Nanoscience & Materials Chemistry, Nanoparticles
    • Environmental & Green Chemistry, Mineral Surface Chemistry
    • B.S. Beloit College, 1992
    • Ph.D. University of Wisconsin, 1998
    • Post Doctorate Johns Hopkins University, 1998-2000
    Office: 225 Smith Hall

Principal Research Interests

The Penn group focuses on the fundamental growth mechanisms of a wide range of environmentally and technologically important nanoparticles, with the goal of controlling particle size and shape, the distribution of elements throughout each particle, defect concentration, and aggregation state. Potential applications include materials for solar cells, catalysis, and environmental remediation.

Some of the well-characterized materials are used in experiments aimed at elucidating the links between the physical and chemical properties of the nanomaterials and their chemical reactivity, magnetism, and other properties. For example, the group employs in situ and ex situ transmission electron microscopy (TEM), in combination with a broad suite of correlative methods, to characterize solid-state changes resulting from reactions with both natural and anthropogenic chemicals. This enables us to quantitatively assess reactivity, reactive surface area, and how reactivity and reactive surface area evolve as reactions proceed and solution conditions change. In addition, natural materials are used in parallel experiments so as to enable meaningful comparisons between the natural and model materials in environmentally relevant reactions.

The Penn group has four major areas:

  • elucidating fundamental, particle-mediated crystal growth mechanisms,
  • characterizing chemical reactivity and evolving reactivity of nanoparticles in environmental systems,
  • synthesizing nanomaterials using green chemistry and nature as guides, and
  • designing and implementing effective programs focused on the atomic structure of solid materials and nanotechnology for middle and high school students and teachers.
graphic showing some of Professor Penn's Research
Figure caption: Cryogenic transmission electron microscopy of oriented iron oxide nanocrystals in water. The uniform grey background is vitrified water, and the darker round objects are crystals of iron oxide. Images like these enable us to study crystal growth, nanoparticle aggregation, and more. Image is from Yuwono, V.M.; Burrows, N.D.; Soltis, J.A.; Penn, R.L., (2010). Oriented Aggregation: Formation and Transformation of Mesocrystal Intermediates Revealed, Journal of the American Chemical Society, 132, pp. 2163-2165. DOI 10.1021/ja909769a


Honors and Awards

  • Community Excellence Award from the University of Minnesota’s Gender and Sexuality Center for Queer and Trans Life
  • Charlotte Striebel Equity Award from the University Office for Equity and Diversity’s Women’s Center, 2016-17
  • American Chemical Society Fellow, 2015
  • Horace T. Morse University of Minnesota Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education, 2015
  • Breaking the Silence Award from the University of Minnesota's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Ally Programs Office, 2014
  • Institute on the Environment Fellow, 2011-present
  • McKnight Presidential Fellow, 2008-2011
  • George Taylor Career Development Award, 2008
  • Best Chemistry Professor of the Year Award
  • Institute of Technology Student Organization, 2008
  • University of Minnesota Thank a Teacher Award, 2007 & 2002
  • National Science Foundation Career Award, 2004-2009

Mailing Address

  • Lee Penn, University of Minnesota, Department of Chemistry
  • B-4, 139 Smith Hall, 207 Pleasant St SE
  • Minneapolis, MN 55455-0431