Faculty Spotlight: Alexander Spokoyny

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Congratulations to Professor Alexander Spokoyny on his promotion to associate professor with tenure, effective July 1, 2020.

A true-Bruin, Spokoyny received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from UCLA in 2006 where he conducted research in Professor M. Frederick Hawthorne’s group and was introduced to the area of boron clusters. He went on to receive his Ph.D. in chemistry from Northwestern University in 2011 where his work with Professor Chad Mirkin provided him with a unique multidisciplinary training in materials inorganic chemistry. He then received training in organometallic chemistry and chemical biology during his joint postdoctoral appointment (2012-2014) with Professor Brad Pentelute and Professor Stephen Buchwald at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Spokoyny joined the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry faculty as an Assistant Professor in 2014 and quickly built a world-class research program focused on the chemistry and practical applications of organomimetic cluster molecules. His group’s research spans the board fields he studied as a Ph.D. student and postdoc, all of which are intricately interrelated and represent a global approach to chemical research. 

The Spokoyny Group
The Spokoyny Group in 2018.

A passionate and commited educator, Spokoyny’s chemistry courses have been actively engaging and educating large cohorts of undergraduate students by incorporating knowledge creation assignments including  writing articles for Wikipedia, mock grant panels and social media engagement. He recently led the effort developing the first general education (GE) undergraduate chemistry appreciation course for non-STEM students. Spokoyny has received multiple awards for his educational efforts including a Research Corporation Cottrell Scholar Award (2018) for his creative contributions to education in chemistry and physics, the department’s prestigious Hanson-Dow Award for Teaching Excellence (2019), and the recent Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award (2020).

Through his outreach efforts, Spokoyny has shown his commitment to bringing chemistry to the community, especially those who are under-served. He has been teaching chemistry to incarcerated students in Southern California prisons as a part of the UCLA Prison Education Program and his group has done extensive outreach for K-12 students.

His many other awards and honors include the UCLA’s Undergraduate Research Week Faculty Mentor Award (2020), NSF Career Award (2019), an NIH/NIGMS Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award award (2017), an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship (2017), the AXE  2017 Glenn T. Seaborg Award (2017), In 2016, Spokoyny was named one of Chemical and Engineering News (C&EN) “Talented 12” and he received a 3M Non-Tenured Faculty Award (2016) and an American Chemistry Society (ACS) New Investigator grant (2016).

“The recognition I have received reflects the hard work and dedication to pushing the frontiers of knowledge by the current and past undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral members of my group as well as numerous collaborators across the world,” Spokoyny said. 

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