MSU student selected for American Chemical Society fellowship

Joanna Xu holds a fluorescence cuvette sample. Xu’s MSU lab contains a fluorometer (background) with which she acquired fluorescence spectra.

Contact: Sarah Nicholas

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State doctoral student Xiuzhu “Joanna” Xu is the recipient of a $7,000 summer fellowship that encourages research in the field of analytical chemistry.

Funded by the American Chemical Society Division of Analytical Chemistry, Xu’s research, which begins June 1, explores the development of an analytical method for understanding the fundamental interactions of matter and light.  

The fellowship is sponsored by the Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh.

“The current growth of information technology is, or soon will be, dominated by light,” said Dennis Smith, professor and head of MSU’s chemistry department.

“Therefore, an accurate measurement of the amount of light (energy) in and out of a device, and accounting for the difference or loss, will determine if a particular molecule or material will be suitable for applications such as optical displays, solar panels, diagnostic sensing and imaging devices,” Smith said.

Although the characterizations of her research materials are critical for design and synthesis, “they are extremely challenging due to the complex interplay of material light scattering, absorption and fluorescence,” Xu said.

At MSU, she has helped develop a spectroscopic technique that now, for the first time, enables differentiation and quantification of material scattering, absorption and on-resonance-fluorescence properties.

“The abundant optical parameters we can obtain from our technique are revealing,” Xu said.

Dongmao Zhang, MSU associate professor of chemistry and Xu’s adviser, said the spectroscopic method Xu helped create has drawn attention from prominent international scientists in the area of fluorescent nanomaterials.

“This fellowship award will enable her to complete two collaborative projects—one on the optical properties of size- and shape-controlled fluorescent quantum dots prepared by researchers at Brown University, and the other on the aggregation-induced emission for materials provided by Hong Kong University of Science and Technology,” Zhang said.

Xu said she looks forward to promoting MSU, her research group and the value of the group’s work to the scientific community.

She will present her summer research results at the 2020 ACS spring national meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which will enable her to build her professional network.

After her anticipated MSU graduation next spring, the Ph.D. candidate plans to continue in the field of chemistry.

“I would like to eventually become an analytical chemistry professor, continuing to develop, improve and promote our exciting spectroscopic techniques to benefit broad research fields including materials synthesis, biophysics and energy conservation,” Xu said. “We can now answer many scientific questions which were previously impossible, advancing the research in these fields.”

Xu began her MSU studies in 2017, pursuing a doctorate in chemistry with a concentration in analytical chemistry. A native of Guangzhou, China, she earned her bachelor’s degree in 2011 and a master’s in 2013 from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou.

The American Chemical Society Division of Analytical Chemistry graduate fellowship program promotes the growth of analytical chemistry in academic institutions and industry, and provides recognition of future leaders in the field of analytical chemistry. Applicants for the fellowship must have peer-reviewed publications in analytical chemistry.

Xu already has published six peer-reviewed articles and has a manuscript under review with the Analytical Chemistry and Physical Chemistry journals.    

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