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SBIO/MACR student wins prestigious ACS award

Oct. 20, 2015 –  

By Kevin Edgar


Graduate student Xiangtao Meng Graduate student Xiangtao Meng

Xiangtao Meng, a fourth-year graduate student in the college of natural resources and environment, has recently been announced as the winner of the 2015 Eastman Graduate student award, given annually by the American chemical society’s cellulose and renewable materials division. The competitive award is given to only one student annually (along with a second place award) from among an international pool of applicants, and recognizes outstanding graduate student achievement in cellulose and renewable mate- rials research. Xiangtao was recognized for his work in devising a new, versatile, and efficient way to modify the renewable polysaccharide cellulose, opening up applications for novel derivatives of the abundant natural polymer ranging from batteries to drug delivery. Meng’s new methodology is so mild that it can be carried out at room temperature and is often complete within one hour, involving no strong acid or base catalysts, and thereby enabling attachment of entities to cellulose (e.g. targeting or therapeutic groups) that are extremely sensitive and would be difficult to attach in any other way. Xiangtao is pursuing his Ph.D. in Macromolecular Science and Engineering (MACR), with a Doctoral Fellowship from the VT Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTAS), working under the guidance of SBIO professor Kevin Edgar.

Meng’s method will allow chemists to use a single readily available, sustainable biomaterial to develop a wide variety of polymers specifically tuned to carry many different pharmaceutical targets. Meng compares the process to grafting fruit trees: the spectrum of different polymers available is like “harvesting apples this year, peaches next year, and pears the next year — all from the same tree,” he said. Meng, from Shandong province, China, is now working on incorporating another type of chemical reaction that will allow even more versatility — like “growing apples and peaches on the same tree,” he said. It will also open the door to a wider array of potential applications, like the synthesis of antibacterial hydrogels for wound dressing.

This is the third time within the last four years that a graduate student from the edgar group has been honored with this prestigious international award (Daiqiang Xu in 2012, and Haoyu Liu in 2013).



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