Ostrowski's Achievements Garner Outstanding Early Career Award

Alexis Ostrowski

Since joining the Bowling Green State University faculty in 2012, Dr. Alexis Ostrowski has established a vibrant and well-funded research program in the Department of Chemistry and Center for Photochemical Sciences and has demonstrated an exceptional level of scholarly achievement. Bowling Green State University recognized her with the Outstanding Early Career Award at the Faculty Excellence Awards April 9.

The award, selected by the Office of Sponsored Programs and Research, is designed to enhance the academic career of junior faculty by providing discretionary funds for the support of future scholarly activities. It brings a $1,000 credit to the recipient's discretionary research account, in addition to a $2,000 cash award.

Ostrowski came to the University after serving as a National Institutes of Health Ruth L. Kirschstein Postdoctoral Fellow at the Molecular Foundry of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. At BGSU, she has focused her research efforts largely on developing and understanding new photo-responsive materials, meaning those whose physical and/or mechanical properties can be modified or switched with light. Her important contributions to the field arise from her novel inclusion of metals, and their light-controllable coordination bonds, in the materials.

According to Ostrowski, “My research vision is to create photo-responsive materials by integrating metal ions and inorganic materials into polymers, preferably polymers from natural, sustainable sources. This research is inspired by the interactions of metals with natural biopolymers.”

“Such an area is a perfect fit for the activities of the Center for Photochemical Sciences and the Photochemical Sciences doctoral program,” said Dr. John Cable, chair of the Department of Chemistry.

Ostrowski has been a productive researcher at BGSU, and she has published 11 peer-reviewed articles, most in the highly respected journals of the American Chemical Society (ACS), and the contribution of one book chapter.

“All of these manuscripts have included graduate and/or undergraduate student coauthors,” Cable said. Ostrowski is committed to providing opportunities for student research, effective teaching and developing the next generation of scientists.

She also contributes to a National Science Foundation-funded research program in chemical education, with former BGSU chemistry faculty member Dr. Andrew Torelli, now at Ithaca College, investigating the use of infrared cameras to visualize the production or consumption of heat during a chemical reaction. The team is developing and deploying a set of general chemistry laboratory experiments and assessing their effectiveness.

To support her research program, Ostrowski has vigorously pursued external funding from a variety of sources, and has been rewarded with funding that not only supports her research but also demonstrates the granting agencies’ confidence in her potential.

Early in 2017 she was selected for an NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award of $596,000 over five years focusing on “Controlling Mechanical Properties of Materials Using Photoactive Metal Coordination Bonds.”

“These are the agency’s most prestigious awards made to junior faculty and recognize outstanding potential for both research and education and their integration,” Cable said.

Shortly after this, Ostrowski received notification from the Herman Frasch Foundation for Chemical Research that she would receive a grant of $250,000 over five years to study “Biodegradable, Photoresponsive Hydrogels for Controlled Application of Nutrient Fertilizers.”

“Alexis’ contributions to the field of have not gone unnoticed by her external peers,” Cable said. In December 2016, she was included in a virtual issue of the ACS journal Inorganic Chemistry that recognized the published work of 15 “Emerging Investigators in Inorganic Photochemistry and Photophysics.”

“There is no doubt in my mind that Alexis has developed a strong, independent, and nationally recognized research program during her five and one-half years at BGSU,” Cable said. “She has done this by developing a talented research group of graduate and undergraduate students who are now poised with the appropriate resources to advance their projects to new levels and in exciting new directions.”