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Student Spotlight: Sylvia Hanna

 Sylvia's headshot wearing a yellow tank top shirt

By Irena Garic

Where are you from, and where did you go to school as an undergraduate?  

I grew up in South Jersey, the beautiful Garden State, and I attended Rowan University as an undergraduate.

How did you become interested in your research?

During my senior year at Rowan, I attended the Fall ACS Conference in Philadelphia where Omar Farha (my now-advisor) gave a Kavli lecture on bio-inspired sponges (metal–organic frameworks). I loved that materials science, inorganic chemistry, architecture, and applicability all merged together into metal–organic framework materials, and I was inspired to pursue this research avenue in my graduate career.

How would you explain what you study to non-scientists?

Metal–organic frameworks (MOFs) are basically nano-sized sponges that have uniform pores inside. Because of the incredibly intricate pore architecture, a gram of MOF can have the surface area of an entire football field! MOFs can “soak up” or store a variety of materials much like sponges do, which makes them useful for a variety of applications. 

What are some potential applications for the work you’re doing?   

I work on synthesizing novel uranium-based MOFs, which has longstanding applications in nuclear waste disposal. 

What has been the highlight of your academic career thus far?

Passing my qualifying exam, being awarded a DOE fellowship, and watching the next generation of graduate students in my group also win several fellowships have all been quite rewarding experiences! But my favorite highlight has been the opportunity to meet some really interesting and exciting people through collaborations and academic conferences.

What do you like most about the Farha Group?  

The people. I enjoy working with a group of graduate students/postdocs who are unselfish, genuinely caring, friendly, and collaborative.

What are your plans after you graduate? 

I would love to work on a unique problem that steps outside of the immediate realm of chemistry, where I can apply problem-solving skills and chemical intuition. Working for the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, or even some place like Google would be pretty neat!

What is the first thing you will do after COVID-19 pandemic is over?  

Despite my inclination for motion sickness, I’ve dearly missed airplanes. The optimal post-pandemic outing for me would be taking a trip to one of the countries on my “travel list”.