Dimitris N. Chorafas Foundation Award

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Graduate student Chuanzhen Zhao (P Weiss/A Andrews groups) receives the prestigious Dimitris N Chorafas Foundation Award. 

Zhao, who works with Professors Paul S. Weiss and Anne M. Andrews in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry and the Department of Psychiatry, received the award for his work “Scalable Nanomanufacturing Techniques and Their Applications in Biomedicine: From Chemical Patterning to Implantable Neuroprobes”. The prize includes a $5,000 award.

Named for UCLA alumnus Dr. Dimitris N. Chorafas (M.S. ’54 engineering), the awards honor innovative research in life sciences, biotechnology, applied mathematics, physics, medical engineering, computer technology and other fields. The recipients of the award are Ph.D. students who are graduating the year the prize is awarded from one of the Chorafas Foundation’s 20 partner universities around the world.  

A 5th year chemistry graduate student, Zhao received his bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering from Beijing Institute of Technology, Beijing, China in 2015. He received his master’s degree in chemistry from UCLA in 2017 and is expected to receive his Ph.D. in chemistry in December 2020.  Zhao is first-author or co-author on 16 publications in top journals, with several more papers soon to be published. 

“Chuanzhen is an extremely creative, intelligent, motivated, productive, hardworking, and persistent scientist,” said his co-advisor Professor Paul Weiss. “While this is true of many of the very top graduate students, of which he is one, he also has great heart that drives him to make important contributions and to help others around him do the same. He will be a scientific star in the future and we will do everything we can to accelerate his rise.”

“Chuanzhen is an expert collaborator,” said co-advisor Professor Anne Andrews. “He identifies, leads, and nurtures collaborative efforts with a number of research groups on campus and at USC. Many of these collaborations were developed largely through his efforts to identify ways to break through to solutions for difficult problems faced in our research and that of others. Chuanzhen is particularly gifted in problem solving, and efficiently and expertly pushing to bring projects to fruition. His research is copious and fruitful—well beyond the productivity of most graduate students, placing him among the top students that I have worked with. Chuanzhen is easily destined for a top postdoctoral position and much success beyond.”

Andrews went on to describe Zhao’s work by saying, “He develops, patterns, tests, and advances novel field-effect transistor designs. This work is focused on a clever finding that he could pattern high-aspect-ratio metal and semiconductor nanoribbon structures using ubiquitous HD-DVDs as templates for soft lithography. Chuanzhen is a master device-designer. He has discovered and implemented device designs with new properties and figures of merit, all the while in keeping with our overarching goals of straightforward translation in sensing. Chuanzhen has developed hard and soft materials neuroprobes for intracerebral neurotransmitter sensing. The latter is a “holy grail” in neuroscience, particularly from the perspective of dramatically widening the scope of the neurochemicals that can be studied simultaneously.”

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu.