Apr 19, 2019
Professor Sarah Tolbert
Professor Sarah Tolbert has been selected by the UCLA Academic Senate for the 2019 Community Service and Praxis Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award.  
 
According to the Academic Senate’s Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (CODEI) awards website, the Community Service and Praxis award honors a faculty member “who has built solid, lasting, and meaningful partnerships with community groups and organizations who have a significant impact on the diversity of Los Angeles and surrounding communities” and has demonstrated a sustained effort in community outreach and professional service, utilizing imaginative or innovative approaches to service, serve as a community service model to students at UCLA.
 
Tolbert holds faculty appointments in the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, and in the UCLA Department of Materials Science and Engineering. She is the faculty education director for the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI), and directs CNSI’s extensive nanoscience education program. Developed over the course of 15+ years, the program includes K-12 teacher training workshops that reach nearly 2000 Los Angeles-area students per year, highly popular nanoscience summer programs for high school students, multiple annual major public outreach events attended by hundreds of people each, entrepreneurship education for middle and high school students, and more. It is estimated that over 70% of people reached in these initiatives come from groups that are underrepresented in science and engineering, reflecting the diversity of Southern California. The majority of these activates are facilitated by UCLA graduate student and postdoctoral scholar volunteers, who donate their time to advance science education in the greater Los Angeles area.
 
“It has been a privilege to work with so many dedicated student volunteers and to see the outcome of our efforts as students of all ages get motivated to learn more about science because of our nanoscience activities,” comments Tolbert.
 
Tolbert with members of her research group, many of whom participate in CNSI’s extensive nanoscience outreach program.
 
“Sarah is the academic life-force that drives the program,” said Dr. Rita Blaik, CNSI Education Manager. “She devotes multiple hours per week to maintain the program’s excellence and she inspires over 60 graduate students and postdoctoral scholars every year to volunteer with us. She is also willing to go where the people are and has had the CNSI outreach program give science demos everywhere from science museums to shopping malls. I’ve never come across another faculty member who gives as much of their time to the cause of public education, and these top-down efforts are what creates real diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM.”
 
“The impact of Dr. Tolbert’s influence literally spans multiple generations” said Sonia Luna, Executive Director of the UCLA California NanoSystems Institute. “Girls as young as seven years old and promising female Ph.D. candidates all benefit from Dr. Tolbert’s commitment to diversity in scientific education, academic excellence and professional development.”
 
A reception will be held to honor Tolbert and other DEI award recipients on Thursday, June 6, 2019, at the Chancellor’s Residence. 
 
Tolbert received her Bachelor's degree in Chemistry from Yale University. She then received her Ph.D. in chemistry from UC Berkeley, studying the structure, stability, and electronic properties of nanometer sized clusters with Professor A. Paul Alivisatos. She was a Postdoctoral Scholar at UC Santa Barbara, researching the synthesis, characterization, and physical and structural properties of new inorganic/organic composite and mesoporous materials with Professor Galen D. Stucky.  She joined the UCLA faculty in 1997. 
 
Tolbert is the director of the UCLA-led Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Frontiers Research Center (EFRC) on Synthetic Control Across Length-scales for Advancing Rechargeables (SCALAR), which seeks to use chemistry and materials research to increase battery capacity, stability and safety.
 
Tolbert's research focuses on controlling nanometer-scale architecture in solution-processed nanostructure materials to generate unique optical, electronic, magnetic, structural, and electrochemical properties. Her group specifically focuses on electrochemical energy storage, solar energy harvesting, nanomagnetics, controlling thermal transport, and new ultra-hard materials. Tolbert is the recipient of a number of awards and honors including Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), a 2017 National Science Foundation (NSF) Special Creativity Award, an NSF CAREER Award, a Beckman Young Investigator Award, and a Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship.
 
To learn more about Tolbert's research visit her group's website.
 
 
Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu.