Chemical Engineer Sarah L. Perry Receives 3M Non-Tenured Faculty Award for 2019

Sarah L. Perry
Sarah L. Perry

Sarah L. Perry, assistant professor of chemical engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has received the 3M Non-Tenured Faculty Award for 2019. The awards, $45,000 over three years, are given to young faculty members across the country who are conducting promising research but have not yet been awarded tenure.

Perry is one of 17 researchers to win the honor this year along with 36 who received award renewals. There were more than 100 nominations from more than 60 academic institutions for this year’s awards. She will also have the opportunity to travel to 3M’s corporate headquarters in St. Paul, Minn., in June to present her research with the other national awardees and connect with 3M scientists.

Perry says she is very pleased to receive the unrestricted $15,000 per year in funding from 3M. “This award will allow me to expand my lab’s research efforts into the development of complex coacervate-based materials as an environmentally friendly platform to enable the encapsulation of active materials for sensing and delivery. In particular, we are looking to encapsulate enzymes and therapeutic proteins for use in smart bandages,” she says.

Working with colleagues at UMass Amherst, Perry has been developing polymers that assemble from a solution of water and salt. The resulting materials can either be used directly in applications such as delivery or adhesives, or can be transformed into ultra-stable solid materials for films or coatings or non-woven materialsthat are highly stable even if exposed to high temperatures or submerged in organic solvents.

In her proposal to 3M, Perry says, “Targeted outcomes include the encapsulation of antimicrobials to achieve improved stability and enhanced activity in films and coatings, as well as non-woven materials for bandage applications. A parallel strategy can be applied to the encapsulation and stabilization of enzymes for use in materials related to wound management, biodetection, and sensing. Our fundamental, molecular engineering approach harnesses knowledge of the underlying physics of encapsulation and cargo stabilization to design robust coacervate-based materials based on specified performance criteria.”

Perry’s sponsor at 3M was Semra Colak Atan, who is a UMass Amherst alumna from Gregory N. Tew’s research group in polymer science and engineering.