U-M chemist wins prestigious award

June 27, 2017
Morgan Sherburne

Melanie Sanford is a chemist at the University of Michigan.Melanie Sanford is a chemist at the University of Michigan.ANN ARBOR—A University of Michigan chemist is a 2017 laureate of the Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists, announced today by the Blavatnik Family Foundation and the New York Academy of Sciences.

Melanie Sanford, the Moses Gomberg Distinguished University Professor and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Chemistry at the University of Michigan, is one of three laureates awarded the honor. Sanford is honored for her work developing simpler, more environmentally friendly approaches to the creating molecules that can be used to store energy in batteries, serve as new medical imaging agents, convert carbon dioxide into fuels, or serve as pharmaceuticals to treat disease.

“This award is such an incredible honor,” Sanford said. “It is a huge testament to the phenomenal training that I have received from my teachers and mentors throughout the years as well as the amazing undergraduates, graduate students and postdocs that I have been so fortunate to work with over the last 13 years of my independent career.”

One of Sanford’s team’s most recent breakthroughs is in the area of redox flow batteries, which are batteries that will ultimately be used to store energy from renewable energy resources such as solar and wind. These kinds of batteries are different from those found in cell phones, computers or cars because they need to be deployed on a huge scale at the same time as being safe and cost effective.

“Our work focuses on designing and tailoring novel energy storage molecules that conform to the stringent requirements of this application,” Sanford said. “This has been a really exciting project because it leverages my group’s expertise as chemical architects and builders for a really new and important application.”

The $250,000 unrestricted award is given to the most promising researchers aged 41 and younger, nominated by the top academic and research institutions across the country. This year’s laureates were drawn from a pool of 308 nominees.

“The work of these three brilliant laureates demonstrates the exceptional science being performed at America’s premier research institutions and the discoveries that will make the lives of future generations immeasurably better,” said Len Blavatnik, founder and chairman of Access Industries, head of the Blavatnik Family Foundation and an Academy Board Governor.

The annual Blavatnik Awards, established in 2007 by the Blavatnik Family Foundation and administered by the New York Academy of Sciences, recognize exceptional young researchers who will drive the next generation of innovation by answering today’s most complex and intriguing scientific questions.


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