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Alumni Spotlight: Yuanning Feng

Yuanning Feng Photo

Yuanning Feng, a 2021 graduate from the Stoddart group, who also completed a two-year postdoctoral stint with Stoddart, recently started as a faculty member at the University of Oklahoma. Leading the Feng Group, his research centers on the design and synthesis of dynamic functional molecules and materials, mimicking molecular behavior in organisms. Starting with small molecules, the group demonstrates their properties and employs them as tools for collaborative exploration with physicists, biologists, and chemical engineers.


You were in the Stoddart Group while at NU, what was your favorite part of the group?

I think my favorite part of the group is the interaction with our principal investigator, Fraser (Stoddart). He is so kind, supportive, and hardworking that changed my mind about being a brilliant scientist and mentor, as well as a generous man. His attitude of making everything perfect, treating everyone nicely, and supporting everything other (especially young) people needed has shaped my academic philosophy. Certainly, he is my (and many other people’s) role model. I am fortunate to have him as my research and life mentor.

How did your time in the Department shape you? How has it inspired your current work?

Seven years is long enough to witness the change in the department and interestingly see some people from visiting campus to graduating with a PhD degree. NU Chemistry department is also the place that let me get familiar with both research and daily cultures in this country since I am a foreigner. I have had a good time with the faculty, staff, and students, which made up my mind to continue my future career in an academic institute in the United States. The highly active collaboration in the department and the group makes me enthusiastic to share my research and talk to other researchers, which I think is important.

Where do you hope to be in your career in the next 10 years?

If “where” here meant the location after 10 years, I probably would not have a good idea, since I just moved to this new place. I am a person who has my mind open and my feet active.
If you asked me about my place in the research community, I hope to have a (small) part of the research area that people will think of my name. Similarly, I also hope when related researchers see my name, will have an idea about what my group has been working on without searching online. If neither of them has been accomplished, that will be fine. I hope to have a group of people work with me together and also some past group members and collaborators will still meet, talk with, or think of me around the world.

Is there any advice you could give current Department students?

I hope you have fun in one of the best chemistry departments in the world. Cherish your time and the opportunity to collaborate with those wonderful professors and colleagues. Enjoy your time and opportunity to spend with friends as well. Talk to other people when you have any difficulty. You came and you will leave here, so don’t put yourself into comparison or worry about your achievements, since only good memories should not be forgotten.

What is a hobby or activity you do outside of teaching Chemistry?

Teaching chemistry (and other things) is one of my hobbies. I enjoy classical music and often play the piano that Fraser donated to me for fun when I am at home. A very rare hobby that I have enjoyed is designing, making and sharing my games, such as board games. One of them, according to the feedback (including friends at NU) for the past 12 years, is not worse than other games on the market. I am always wondering if they are more attractive than my research projects to my students. 

Yuanning Feng joined the University of Oklahoma Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry as an Assistant Professor in Fall 2023. To learn more about his research, check out the Feng Group website and follow them on Twitter (X) or Instagram.