Each year, the Chemical and Engineering News (C&EN) highlights 12 innovative young scientists across academia and industry and around the world who use chemical sciences to address formidable global challenges and engage in world-changing work, and are considered rising stars in their fields. Dr. Alaaeddin Alsbaiee is the first Arab researcher to receive the prestigious C&EN Talented Twelve Award from the American Chemical Society (ACS) for his impressive achievements and contributions in polymer chemistry. This article casts light on his academic and industrial journeys and the discoveries that led to him receiving this valuable award.
Dr. Alaaeddin got his Bachelor’s degree in Applied Chemistry from Damascus University in 2005, and was among the top five in the Faculty of Chemistry at that time, which allowed him to obtain a scholarship for master’s degree in organic chemistry from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Saudi Arabia. After two years, he got his master’s degree with distinction, which allowed him to earn a scholarship from the University of Alberta and the National Institute for Nanotechnology (NINT) in Canada, for Ph.D. study in the fields of organic and supramolecular chemistry and nano-bio-technology for bone fracture treatment application, and he received his Ph.D. degree in September 2013.
In 2016, Dr. Alaaeddin moved to the United States as a postdoctoral researcher in Prof. William Dichtel’s group in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Cornell University, and he worked there until February 2016. During his postdoc at Cornell, Dr. Alsbaiee pioneered a new class of high-surface-area cyclodextrin polymers that could remove hundreds of organic micro-pollutants, including hard-to-catch poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), from air and water. PFAS are used in nonstick coatings, lubricants, and other applications, and the main challenge with these pollutants is that they persist in the environment and they pose various ecological and health risks including cancer and many others. These scientific discoveries resulted in several inventions of polymeric nanomaterials that can remove micro-organic impurities from water almost instantaneously and at the cheapest cost, unlike commercial and state-of-the-art adsorbent materials which remove pollutants much slower and less efficiently. In addition to the fact that these materials are sustainable since they were developed from renewable sources and are fully recyclable at ambient temperature, they resulted in the foundation of an American startup called “Cyclopure” in 2017, which is considered one of the top 10 emerging companies in the field of water treatment in America today. Besides, Dr. Alaaeddin’ discoveries at Cornell resulted in several very high impact publications in top academic journals including: Nature (cover page article), JACS, Chemical Science, and several others. These publications were also cited over 1500 times and highlighted in over 50 media outlets worldwide.
Later, at Arkema, Alaaeddin worked within a team that developed Elium®, a tough thermoplastic resin that enables the creation of the first recyclable wind turbine blades, thus improving the sustainability and reducing the environmental impact of wind blade plastics. His research in Arkema was chosen as one of the best two innovations in the company in 2017, which also led to him receiving the prestigious national award “Rising Star of the Polymers Industry” from the American agency AIChE, which is the second largest society of chemical scientists and engineers in the world.
In 2018, Dr. Alsbaiee moved to DuPont Inc., which is the second largest chemical company in the United States, and since then he has been working as a scientist and a project leader in one of the company’s research centers in Newark, Delaware, which is focused on developing fabrication technologies of semiconductor and nano processors found in various smart electronic devices around the world. At DuPont, Dr. Alaaeddin co-invented a new family of semi-conductor polishing pads, which is expected to commercialize in early 2022.
Finally, Dr. Alsbaiee gave some precious advice to all Arab youth that are interested in science and said: “Those who want to enter the world of scientific research should know that this road is exciting but also long and difficult and it requires patience and passion for research. The researcher should not set his/her eyes on material profit because that will inevitably hinder him/her at the beginning. The fruits of scientific research often come later, and he who is looking for money will not find what he is looking for at first, but after great effort and hard work. He called on all Arab students, especially those who are going through difficult circumstances, to strive in their studies and look forward to the best, for everything in this life is possible with hard work, patience and will.“