Physics professor named one of Virginia's Outstanding Scientists of 2015

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Puru Jena, Ph.D., a distinguished professor of physics at Virginia Commonwealth University, was named one of three Virginia's Outstanding Scientists of 2015.

Jena, a professor in the Department of Physics in the College of Humanities and Sciences, was selected for the honor for his significant contributions to the theoretical understanding of nanomaterials with potential applications in clean energy, medicine and information technology.

"I am delighted and honored that I was chosen as one of this year's Virginia's Outstanding Scientists," Jena said. "This would not have been possible without the help of my colleagues, students and postdoctoral fellows I have had the privilege to work with over the past 35 years at Virginia Commonwealth University. I am grateful to them as well as to VCU for providing the atmosphere and support needed for creative work."

Jena pioneered the concept of "superatoms," which are clusters of atoms with well-defined size and composition. These "superatoms" mimic the chemistry of atoms and can become the building blocks of novel materials with tailored properties.

His work covers a wide spectrum that includes materials for hydrogen storage, gold-coated silica and iron nanoparticles for noninvasive treatment of tumors, functionalized semiconductors for spintronics application, and novel forms of carbon, such as three-dimensional metallic carbon and penta-graphene composed of only carbon pentagons.

Jena is credited with 520 publications, including 120 articles published in the past 5 years. He has organized over 50 international conferences and given 425 invited talks at conferences and institutions in 30 countries.

He was the 2011 recipient of VCU's Presidential Medallion and was the 2001 recipient of the Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education of Virginia.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Richard Conti, chief wonder officer for the Science Museum of Virginia, announced the awards on Tuesday. Also named Virginia's Outstanding Scientists of 2015 were Mikhail Noginov, Ph.D., a professor and researcher in the Department of Physics and the Center for Materials Research at Norfolk State University, and Timothy Long, Ph.D., a professor of chemistry at Virginia Tech.

The awards will be presented at the Science Museum of Virginia on April 2.


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