Welcoming Professor Matthew J. Nava

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The department welcomes talented synthetic inorganic chemist Professor Matthew Nava, who joins the UCLA faculty as the Jeffrey and Helo Zink Endowed Professional Development Term Chair in Chemistry.

Professor Matthew Nava joined our inorganic faculty in July 2022 as an Assistant Professor. A Southern California native, Nava received a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry as a Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) U*STAR Program trainee and his master’s degree in chemistry from the University of California, Riverside, working with Professor Chris Reed. He received his Ph.D. in chemistry in 2017 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with Professor Christopher Cummins on Lester Wolfe and Alan Davison Fellowships. Before joining the UCLA faculty, Nava was a joint postdoctoral fellow in Professors Daniel G. Nocera’s and Daniel Kahne’s groups at Harvard.

“We welcome Matt to UCLA. We are impressed by his diverse scientific training and his broad expertise” said Professor Miguel García-Garibay, UCLA’s Dean of Physical Sciences. “We were also thrilled by Matt’s desire to be a great mentor for underrepresented minority students at all levels. We believe he will be a strong advocate for a proper support structure and inclusion in an academic environment of students from diverse backgrounds.”

In his group, Nava is working to advance the science of inorganic synthesis (electron rich labile ligands, oxidation resistant frameworks); spectroscopy, biological imaging, and materials applications (synthetic chemistry enabled functional platforms); and energy propagation, conversion, and storage. Key long-term objectives include the elucidation and manipulation of the biological-nanomaterials interface, understanding metal interactions and localization within biological systems, and probing the effect of recalcitrant physical phenomena on protein structure and function.

“We are excited about Matt’s starting his independent career in our department,” said Distinguished Professor Neil Garg, the Kenneth N. Trueblood Endowed Chair in Chemistry and Biochemistry and Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “When he interviewed, I remember that beyond his incredible accomplishments, I was impressed by the maturity and clarity of thought with which Matt presented his results. Matt is a rare talent who will be able to contribute to our department’s science in a cross-cutting fashion right from the start, and we are prepared to support him in all his efforts.”

Nava is passionate about the MARC program. “Prior to joining the MARCU program, I was working at a grocery store as an undergraduate. Like many, I was uncertain about my interests and the future,” Nava explained. “The MARC program was instrumental in allowing me to discover chemistry and provided the resources and tools to ignite my passion in fundamental research that had undoubtedly been there all along. Without the program, I may not have had access to chemical research and certainly would not have had the means to support myself. I am truly thankful for the work of Dr. Jolinda Traugh and many others to make this program available to the community and I am excited to transition from a MARCU trainee to a mentor.”

“The search committee was impressed with Dr. Nava’s interests in multiple fields and his extraordinary interdisciplinary training,” said Professor Paula Diaconescu. “During his career, he tackled problems ranging from synthetic inorganic chemistry to developing a molecular beam mass spectrometer and biological imaging. We are excited to have such a colleague and are looking forward to his future accomplishments.”

“I am absolutely delighted to become a member of the UCLA community, not only because of the innovative, supportive colleagues and rich scholarly history, but also because of the department and wider university’s vision and commitment to provide equal access and education to a diverse community,” Nava said. “Furthermore, as a product of the University of California, it is a privilege to give back to the system which shaped me as an undergraduate and help support and advocate for the next generation of scientists.”

“We are very excited about Matt’s many innovative research ideas and warmly welcome him to the inorganic division and our department,” said Professor Jeffrey Zink, who, with his wife Helo, established the endowed chair that Nava holds.

“Matt is a very thoughtful scientist with broad research interests and we are all looking forward to getting to interact with him more,” said Professor Sarah Tolbert.

“It’s very exciting that Dr. Nava is joining our department. He is very talented and did beautiful work at Harvard as a postdoctoral fellow in the Nocera and Kahne groups,” said Professor Robert Clubb. “At UCLA, it will be exciting to see how he leverages his impressive and broad skills in synthetic chemistry to tackle important problems in biological imaging. It’s going to be great to have him as a colleague.”

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