Helen Tran receives 2021 Dorothy Shoichet Award

December 8, 2021 by Dan Haves

Professor Helen Tran has received the 2021 Dorothy Shoichet Women Faculty in Science Award of Excellence.

Tran is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry with a cross-appointment to the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry.

“I am incredibly honoured to receive this award, which will accelerate my research program during a critical point in my career,” says Tran. “I admire Professor Shoichet's altruistic initiative to create such a meaningful award to support younger faculty in the sciences.

Tran’s current research aims to create next-generation electronics that will autonomously respond to local stimuli and be seamlessly integrated with the human body, opening the doors for opportunities in environmental monitoring, advanced consumer products, and health diagnostics for personalized therapy.

The underpinnings of such next-generation electronics is the development of new materials with a wide suite of functional properties beyond our current toolkit. Organic polymers are a natural bridge between electronics and soft matter, where the vast chemical design space allows tunability of electronic, mechanical, and transient properties. Her team leverages the rich palette of polymer chemistry to design new materials encoded with information for self-assembly, degradability, and electronic transport.

The Dorothy Shoichet Women Faculty in Science Award of Excellence was established in 2016 by University Professor Molly Shoichet in honour of her mother to help early-career female researchers focus on their research. It is awarded to female faculty members in any of the physical or life sciences, computer sciences or mathematics within the Faculty of Arts & Science.

Tran becomes the second researcher from the department of chemistry to receive this honour, with Professor Sophie Rousseaux being awarded in 2020.

She completed her PhD at Columbia University in 2016 under the supervision of Prof. Luis Campos, broadly investigating hierarchical ordering and periodic patterning in block copolymer systems. Also, she was selected as an AAAS IF/THEN Ambassador for her outreach endeavors, leading to media opportunities such as being featured on the CBS TV show Mission Unstoppable and on the Girl Scouts Cadette Badge Workbook for Exploring STEM Careers.

Tran is also committed to scientific outreach, endorses communication among interdisciplinary disciplines, and continually strives to become a supportive mentor.

“Professor Tran is a tremendous addition to the Department of Chemistry and the University of Toronto, bringing cutting edge research ideas in materials chemistry that have potential applications in human health and next generation devices,” says Rob Batey, professor and chair in the Department of Chemistry.

“Along with her research accomplishments and vision, her commitment to teaching, outreach, and EDI initiatives, is such that she is a truly deserving recipient of this award. We are also very grateful to our colleague Professor Molly Shoichet in establishing the Dorothy Shoichet Award and the support it brings to early career researchers in the sciences.”