Welcoming Professor Abby Kavner

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The department welcomes talented mineral chemist Professor Abby Kavner, who will join the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry faculty as a Full Professor on July 1, 2023.

Prof. Kavner will hold a joint appointment with the department and the UCLA Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Science, where she is currently a Full Professor.  In the chemistry and biochemistry department,  Prof. Kavner aims to combine her backgrounds in geoscience and materials science to help address humanity’s need for energy while preserving a clean environment and developing resilience to the effects of climate change.

“We are excited that Abby is joining our department,” said Distinguished Kenneth N. Trueblood Professor Neil Garg, the Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “Abby’s expertise in mineral chemistry brings an exciting area of research to our department that is otherwise not well-represented. Abby is also a stellar teacher who will do great things for student education.”

Prof. Kavner ran her first chemistry experiments in the family basement in the Hudson Valley, where she had access to all of the instrumentation she desired.  Since then, she has never left the lab. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in Materials Science & Engineering from Northwestern University, Prof. Kavner went on to the University of California, Berkeley, to receive her master’s degree in Materials Science & Engineering and her Ph.D. in Geophysics working with Professor Raymond Jeanloz.  She was then a Hess Postdoctoral Fellow at Princeton University and later held the Lamont Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, New York.

Prof. Kavner joined the faculty of the UCLA Earth & Space Science Department and the Institute for Geophysics & Planetary Physics as an Assistant Professor in 2002, and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2008, and to Full Professor in 2014.  Prof. Kavner is a Fellow of the Mineralogical Society of America. She was a visiting Professor in the Department of Applied Physics at the University of Valencia, Spain in 2018. She returned to Spain two years later with a Fulbright Senior Scholar Fellowship.

Prof.  Kavner currently teaches the department’s “Chemical Structure” (Chem 20A) course and will teach undergraduate major and graduate courses in physical chemistry, analytical chemistry, and inorganic chemistry in the future. One day she would like to teach chemistry in Spanish.

About Prof. Kavner’s research interests

Research Theme 1: Material Properties at high pressures and temperatures: Phase diagrams, thermoelastic properties, transport properties

Prof. Kavner’s experimental research program in mineral chemistry seeks to examine the properties of materials at extremely high pressures and temperatures, and far from chemical and thermal equilibrium. Her group uses the diamond anvil cell to generate high pressures, and employs synchrotron-based X-ray diffraction techniques as well as spectroscopy techniques to examine phase stability and thermoelastic equations of state at extremes of pressures and temperatures. In addition, Prof. Kavner studies how pressure effects transport properties–thermal and electrical conductivity, as well as strength of ultrahard materials.

Research Theme 2: Geochemical Signatures of Electrochemical Processes

Prof. Kavner and her research group study kinetic isotope effects in electrochemical reactions. The goal of this program is to combine isotope-dependent kinetics with traditional reaction kinetics to elucidate the vibrational properties of the transition state.

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