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Jentoft, Gleason, and Yao Chosen for Outstanding Faculty Awards

Friederike Jentoft, Colin Gleason, and Jun Yao

Jentoft, Gleason, & Yao

The College of Engineering has chosen Professor Friederike Jentoft of the Chemical Engineering (ChE) Department to receive the 2020-2021 Outstanding Senior Faculty Award. The college has also selected Assistant Professor Colin J. Gleason of the Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department and Assistant Professor Jun Yao of the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department as the co-recipients of the 2020-2021 Barbara H. and Joseph J. Goldstein Outstanding Junior Faculty Award. The final selections were made by the Junior/Senior Faculty Awards Committee, which considered all the nominations.

As the Junior/Senior Faculty Awards Committee said about Professor Jentoft, she “is an internationally renowned researcher in catalysis, where she has distinguished herself both for her exceptional scholarship in heterogeneous catalysis and for her leadership in this interdisciplinary field among the scientific communities of chemical engineering, chemistry, and materials science. Professor Jentoft has also been an outstanding citizen in the [department and college] as a teacher, mentor, and colleague, and her efforts to reorganize and revitalize the senior ChE laboratory are particularly noted.”

According to ChE Department Head Michael Henson, “Prior to joining UMass, Friederike served as group leader at the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society in Berlin, Germany (1996-2008), and was awarded her Habilitation on Physical Chemistry from Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (2005). She then joined the School of Chemical, Biological, and Materials Engineering at the University of Oklahoma as an associate professor (2008) and was subsequently promoted to full professor before joining the UMass Department of Chemical Engineering (2015).”

Henson noted that Jentoft’s research has been funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy (DOE), the American Chemical Society (ACS), and various industry companies, including Chevron-Phillips, Nippon Kayaku, and Fresenius Medical Care.

“In recognition of her groundbreaking work since joining UMass in 2015,” wrote Henson, “Friederike received the prestigious Excellence in Catalysis Award from the Catalysis Society of Metropolitan New York in 2018. She was invited to present more than 20 seminars and presentations, most notably a keynote lecture at the North American Catalysis Society meeting.”

In her field, according to Henson, Jentoft serves on the ACS Catalysis Division Executive Committee, has organized sessions at the ACS and American Institute of Chemical Engineers national meetings, and has served as a reviewer for the NSF, DOE, ACS, and several international funding agencies.

According to the Junior/Senior Faculty Awards Committee, “Dr. Gleason has already become an internationally recognized research leader in the new and growing area of estimating river flows from space with application to climate change in the Arctic. He is the receipt of both an NSF CAREER Award and a NASA New Investigator Award. He has published extensively in the most respected international hydrology journals and is highly praised by undergraduate and graduate students for his excellence in mentoring and teaching.”

As CEE Department Head John Tobiason said about Gleason, “He is an expert in field validation of remote sensing assessment of hydrologic systems, with particular attention to Arctic hydrology, a topic of great importance in the understanding of global climate change and impact.”

Tobiason said that Gleason has been PI or co-PI on 17 different funded awards since 2017 with a value of $8.1 million, with $3.9 million committed to Dr. Gleason, and $3 million as PI.

Gleason has a total of 41 published peer-reviewed journal articles, with 24 since his first full year at UMass in 2017 after receiving his PhD in 2016. Many of them are in the most respected journals in his field.

Gleason has chaired technical sessions at the most important meeting in his field, that of the American Geophysical Union, and has many duties with NASA, including conducting NASA workshops, serving on an American Geophysical Union Remote Sensing Technical Committee, and serving as the U.S. Head of Calibration and Validation for Inland Hydrology for the NASA SWOT Satellite Mission, a position of national responsibility.

“Dr. Gleason is one of the best advisors I have ever had,” explained CEE Post-doctoral Research Associate Dongmei Feng. “He is very inspiring, responsible, supportive, and thoughtful. During the past several years, whenever I was stuck with problems or difficulties in research, Dr. Gleason could always help me find solutions. There were so many ‘epiphany’ moments when I talked with him about research questions.”

As CEE Ph.D. candidate Craig Brinkerhoff said, “As Dr. Gleason’s student, I believe much of his success comes from his strength as a mentor. Dr. Gleason has a unique ability to adapt to each individual’s specific research style. He has a keen eye for how everyone approaches the research process differently, and I believe…is able to capitalize on those differences. This has led to a large body of successful and insightful work in only a few years.”

As the Junior/Senior Faculty Awards Committee said about Professor Yao, he “has established a leading research program in electronics made from green biomaterials. He has already made a number of key research contributions, including novel memristers (Nature Communications) and the high-profile demonstration of energy harvesting from the atmosphere (Nature), both with protein nanowires. In addition to his teaching contributions, he has advised students in the UMass Innovation Challenge, including a 2018 winner, and done outreach to high school students.”

According to ECE Department Head Christopher Hollot, “Dr. Yao is an electrical engineer with significant training in the sciences with expertise in electronic device conception, design, and fabrication. He is an IALS co-hire with expertise in bioelectronics and has carved out a research area in electronics made from green biomaterials.”

Hollot added that Yao’s “specific research accomplishments have been in harvesting electricity from ambient humidity; making electronics work at biological amplitudes; and improving sensitivity of sensors through bioinspiration. One of his near-term goals is to move from green electronic components to green electronic systems.”

Before joining UMass Amherst in September 2017, Dr. Yao was a postdoc in Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University. He received his Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Rice University in 2012. Yao has published a total of 42 peer-reviewed journal articles. Since arriving at UMass Amherst, Yao’s research group has published 13 journal articles, several in prestigious venues. Seven of these articles have been co-authored with his Ph.D. students.

Yao has a total of ten patents, three of them were obtained since arriving at UMass Amherst, and his former M.S. student, Alex Smith (presently a Ph.D. student in BME), is CTO and cofounder of the startup company “Power for Humanity,” based on one of these patents.

As Hollot wrote, “Dr. Yao has won several awards: Sony Faculty Innovation Award (2021), Armstrong Fund for Science Award (2020), NSF CAREER Award (2019), Manning/IALS Innovation Award (2019), Technology Development Award by UMass President’s Office (2018), and top prize in the UMass Amherst Innovation Challenge (2018).” (April 2021)