Diverse Minds Seminar with Dr. R. Lee Penn

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Join us on Tuesday, November 16th for an engaging scientific talk and discussion with Dr. R. Lee Penn (University of Minnesota) on their passionate advocacy work in STEM.

Dr. R. Lee Penn

October 29, 2021

Join us on Tuesday, November 16th from 3-4:15 pm PT for an engaging scientific talk and discussion with Dr. Lee Penn (University of Minnesota) on their passionate advocacy work in STEM.

This event is open to Caltech and JPL community members.


Talk Title and Abstract:

Iron Oxide Nanoparticles in Reactive Environments

Iron is the fourth most abundant element in the Earth's crust, and iron bearing minerals are reactive in both natural and engineered aqueous systems. Mineralogy and crystal size and shape evolve substantially as a function of changing conditions and redox conditions.  We quantitatively compare reactivity of natural and synthetic iron oxides in redox reactions with model pollutant molecules like nitroaromatics and quinones.  We extensively characterize solid-state materials before, during, and after reaction as well as track the loss or production of dissolved species.  Variables like the presence of organic matter (e.g., Suwanne River Natural Organic Matter) can dramatically change how minerals grow, dissolve, and transform.   The seminar will highlight several examples of our ongoing work studying the reactivity of iron oxide nanoparticles in aqueous systems.

About Dr. Lee Penn:

Professor R. Lee Penn leads a world-class, interdisciplinary research program and is a national leader in the fields of nanoscience, crystal growth, materials chemistry, and environmental chemistry. Their interdisciplinary and highly collaborative research focuses on fundamental formation and growth mechanisms of nanoparticles, green methods for making nanomaterials, and the roles nanoparticles play in chemical transformations in the environment. 

R. Lee Penn, Ph.D. is the Merck Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities campus and the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Chemistry Department. Lee is a Distinguished University Teaching Professor, and they have received numerous awards for advocacy for the LGBT community including: the Community Excellence award from the University of Minnesota's Gender and Sexuality Center for Queer and Trans Life, Charlotte Stribel Equity Award from the University Office for Equity and Diversity's Women's Center (2016-2017), and Breaking the Silence Award from the University of Minnesota's Gay Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Ally Programs Office (2014). Lee is also an Institute on the Environment Resident Fellow and an ACS fellow and won the Horace T. Morse University of Minnesota Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education in 2015.  

Service to the scientific community and outreach to underrepresented groups in the sciences are priorities for Professor Penn. At the national level, this includes serving as Program Chair and Division Chair of the ACS Geochemistry Division. For the department, Penn served as founding chair of the chemistry's Diversity Committee, and on the Space Committee, Graduate Curriculum Committee, Tenure Committee, Fellowship Committee, and Diversity of Views and Experiences (DOVE) Fellowships Committee. Penn serves on the Electron Microscopy Management Committee, working to ensure the quality training for and best use of the college's transmission electron microscopy facilities. Outreach activities include Penn's Microscopy Camp, the Women in Science & Engineering's Cool Chemistry program, and the college's Energy & U program. They recently received the George W. Taylor Award for Distinguished Service, honored for their outstanding service to the University, scientific community, and profession.

Penn is an active and committed advocate for marginalized communities. They have become an effective instructor and facilitator for workshops addressing topics from intersectionality, bullying, implicit bias, micro-aggressions, serving as effective allies, LGBTQ+ identities, gender equity, and more. This advocacy also includes serving as adviser to the UMN Chapter of National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChe), serving as informal adviser and mentor to the Out in Science and Engineering (o-STEM) student group, and mentoring several gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer (GLBTQ) identified students studying science, technology, engineering and math through the University's Gender and Sexuality Center for Queer and Trans Life year-long mentoring program.

Professor Penn joined the Department of Chemistry faculty as an assistant professor in 2001, was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 2008, and to full professor in May 2015. Penn earned a bachelor degree in chemistry from Beloit College in 1992, and master's degree in 1994 and doctorate in 1998 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Before coming to the University of Minnesota, Penn was an adjunct faculty member at Towson University, and a post-doctoral researcher at Johns Hopkins University. Penn is an ACS Fellow.

Pronouns:  They/them