Research Seminars @ Illinois

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Tailored for undergraduate researchers, this calendar is a curated list of research seminars at the University of Illinois. Explore the diverse world of research and expand your knowledge through engaging sessions designed to inspire and enlighten.

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Alumni Lecture: Dr. H.N. Cheng (PhD, ’74, Gutowsky), USDA Agricultural Research Service - Plastic Pollution: How to Tackle this Problem

Event Type
Department of Chemistry
May 10, 2024   3:30 - 4:30 pm  
Dr. H.N. Cheng (PhD, ’74, Gutowsky)
Amanda Ramey
Originating Calendar
Chemistry - Public Events

Alumni Lectures feature Chemistry at Illinois alumni who have, with the foundation of their chemistry studies at Illinois, made a meaningful impact in their chosen field.

Plastic Pollution: How to Tackle this Problem

Friday, May 10, 2024
3:30 - 4:30 PM 
Chemical and Life Sciences Laboratory B102
Light refreshments provided
*This lecture is open to all UIUC students, faculty, and staff*

Register here: Alumni Lecture Registration

Since the 1950s, plastics have been popular due to their low cost, versatility, and convenience. However, their widespread use and mismanagement have led to plastic pollution in the environment. A major problem that has attracted public attention is the generation and spread of microplastics, tiny plastic particles that pervade ecosystems and pose a severe threat to both wildlife and human health. Indeed, plastic pollution represents a multifaceted challenge that requires collaborative actions from governments, industries, and individuals. Research and development (R&D) can play a pivotal role in the fight against plastic pollution by understanding the complexities of plastic pollution, developing sustainable materials, designing innovative packaging methods, and advancing recycling technologies. Thus, continued investment in R&D is needed, together with the implementation of a combination of solutions like reducing single-use plastics, improving waste management, and investing in sustainable alternatives. In this talk, the major problems of plastic pollution and the potential solutions will be summarized. Examples will be shown of some of the R&D approaches to mitigate this problem, including some of the work done by the speaker.  By investing in R&D and embracing sustainable practices, we can help to combat plastic pollution and reduce its proliferation in the future.

H. N. Cheng (B.S., UCLA; Ph.D., University of Illinois) retired in May 2022 from Southern Regional Research Center (SRRC) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in New Orleans. Currently, he serves as a collaborator at SRRC, where he continues his research activities in several projects. He has authored or co-authored over 315 scientific papers, 26 patent publications, 26 professional articles, edited or co-edited 25 books, and organized or co-organized over 45 symposia since 2000. In his research, he has made significant advances in developing green chemistry methodologies pertaining to agro-based materials and using agricultural materials and byproducts to produce eco-friendly and sustainable products. He has also contributed to new developments in polymer NMR, polymer reactions, and biocatalysis. More information can be found at

He is active in the American Chemical Society (ACS), having served in many leadership roles. He has completed a three-year term in the ACS presidential succession (2020-2022), including ACS President in 2021. His Presidential theme was “Growth, Collaboration, and Advocacy”, whereby he advocated for innovation, disciplinary growth, sustainability, digitization, industrial engagement and entrepreneurship. He also helped organize events, symposia, and webinars to benefit ACS members and the chemistry enterprise. Recognition of his scientific contributions includes ACS Fellow (2009), POLY Fellow (2010), AGFD Fellow (2018), Herty Medal (2022), Spencer Award (2022), and SRRC Outstanding Scientist of the Year (2014, 2019). Recognition of his professional contributions includes ACS Volunteer Service Award (2016), Outstanding Contributor to Cultural Diversity at SRRC (2011, 2017), Special Service Awards given by ACS Polymer Chemistry Division (2005, 2015, 2020), and Tillmans-Skolnick Award given by ACS Delaware Section (2006).

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