Lauren Chua

  • Program Year: 1
  • Academic Institution: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Field of Study: Polymers and Soft Matter
  • Academic Advisor: Rafael Gomez-Bombarelli
  • Practicum(s): Practicum Not Yet Completed
  • Degree(s):
    M.S.E. Materials Science and Engineering, and B.S.E. Materials Science and Engineering, University of Pennsylvania, 2022

Summary of Research

Today, scientists are challenged to redesign the fate of post-consumer plastics. Thermoset plastics particularly have revolutionized high-performance engineering applications like aviation and wind energy, but these materials require a lot of energy to make and cannot be degraded at end-of-life. Lauren is working to study alternative thermoset chemistries, which enable energy efficient manufacturing and regenerative use, at the polymer chain scale (millions of atoms) with quantum chemical precision. She is leveraging high throughput virtual screening and machine learning surrogates for costly ab initio molecular dynamics simulations to elucidate the mechanisms of these sustainable polymer chemistries and routes for degradation and reuse. Over the course of this work, she hopes to develop simulation techniques that can be extended towards other poorly understood polymer chemistries at the condensed state with accuracy only previously afforded to first-principles methods. Establishment of these workflows can help enable the robust computational study of hard-to-recycle polymer systems, so that the underlying bottlenecks to their degradation can be addressed at the molecular level. Through this work, Lauren aims to enable a more informed approach to designing and realizing more sustainable polymers for circular use in our economy.


Liu, S.*; Chua, L.*; Shamsabadi, A. A.; Corcoran, P.; Patra, A.; Grady, M. C.; Soroush, M.; Rappe, A. M. Oxygen-Initiated Free-Radical Polymerization of Alkyl Acrylates at High Temperatures. Macromolecules 2021, 54 (17), 7925-7930.

Posters and Presentations
Chua, L. "Oxygen-Initiated and Catalyzed Free Radical Polymerization of Alkyl Acrylates at High Temperatures"; Undergraduate Research in Polymer Science Symposium, American Chemical Society National Meeting at San Diego; March 2022.

Chua, L. "First-Principles Insights into Mechanochemical Aziridination of Graphene"; Virtual Poster Presentation- NSF CMCC REU Program (National Science Foundation, Center for Mechanical Control of Chemistry, Research Experience for Undergraduates); August 2021.

Chua, L. "Oxygen-Initiated and Catalyzed Free Radical Polymerization of Alkyl Acrylates at High Temperatures"; Virtual Symposium- GCURS (Gulf Coast Undergraduate Research Symposium); October 2020.

Chua, L. "Oxygen as Free, High-Temperature Catalyst for Alkyl Acrylate Polymerization"; Virtual Poster Presentation- CURF (Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships) Fall Research Expo 2020; September 2020.

* denotes co-authorship


University of Pennsylvania Nominee for Goldwater Scholarship, 2020
University of Pennsylvania SEAS, Outstanding Research Award at Master's Level, 2022
William Graham Social Impact Prize for Materials Science and Engineering Senior Design, 2022
Penn Alumni Club of Delaware Scholarship, 2022
3rd Place Poster Presentation in Undergraduate Research for Polymer Science Symposium at the ACS National Meeting in San Diego, 2022
Dean's List*, 2018-2019, 2021-2022
French National Honor Society, 2021
Osiris Senior Society for the Arts, 2021

(*University suspended award for academic years 2019-2021)