Nav: Home

Tomoyasu Mani wins 2016 Blavatnik Regional Award for Young Scientists

October 13, 2016

UPTON, NY--Tomoyasu Mani, former Goldhaber Fellow at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory and now an assistant professor in the University of Connecticut's Department of Chemistry, has received the 2016 Blavatnik Regional Award for Young Scientists in the chemistry category. The awards, established in 2007 by the Blavatnik Family Foundation in partnership with the New York Academy of Sciences, celebrate the innovative achievements of postdoctoral scientists 42 years of age or younger who work in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut. Mani is being recognized for his "advances in the understanding of electron transport occurring in organic photovoltaics used in solar energy capture and conversion."

"I'm very honored to be recognized by the Blavatnik Regional Award. As an early-career scientist, I appreciate the increased visibility in the field of chemistry and the larger scientific community that this award will bring me, and I look forward to continuing to make contributions to the field," said Mani. "Although younger generations of scientists may be unfamiliar with radiation chemistry or find it hard to apply to their work, my research to understand fundamental processes in organic solar cells is a good example of how radiation chemistry can provide us with valuable information that is hard or impossible to come by using other means."

Mani joined the Chemistry Department at Brookhaven Lab in 2013. The following year, he was awarded the prestigious Gertrude and Maurice Goldhaber Distinguished Fellowship, which is given to exceptionally talented candidates who have a strong desire for independent research at the frontiers of their fields. He held this appointment until August 2016, when he became part of the Department of Chemistry faculty at the University of Connecticut.

While at Brookhaven, Mani studied how delocalized electrons move through chains of organic molecules with alternating double and single bonds. Organic photovoltaic devices use these "conjugated" molecules to convert sunlight into electricity. While organic solar cells are more flexible and lightweight than the conventional silicon-based versions, their power-conversion efficiency has been limited. Understanding how the electrical charges generated by sunlight are separated and transported to produce a current is critical to increasing this efficiency.

"The challenge is to characterize these charged species in the non-polar environments where the electricity-producing chemical reactions occur. We are trying to elucidate the basic principles that govern the nature of charges on a very fundamental level in such an environment," said Mani.

To investigate the nature of charges in conjugated molecules, Mani combined chemical synthesis (to make the molecules), pulse radiolysis (to inject charges into the molecules), infrared spectroscopy (to study the atomic vibrations of these charged molecules), and theoretical analysis (to understand how the electrons move). His research demonstrated that molecular vibrations provide insights into the nature of charged species that can help scientists design better molecules and materials for harnessing and storing solar energy.

"For someone only a few years out of graduate school, Tomo has made impressive accomplishments," said John Miller, leader of Brookhaven's Electron- and Photo-Induced Processes Group and Mani's former advisor. "He came up with several innovative ideas and designed and carried out experiments to test these ideas, often using sophisticated equipment such as accelerators and performing complex theoretical computations. Creativity, initiative, and enthusiasm are important characteristics of a young scientist, and Tomo has them all."

A distinguished jury of senior scientists and engineers selected Mani from among 125 nominations submitted by 24 academic and research institutions in the New York tri-state area. One winner and two finalists were selected in each of the three award categories: life sciences, physical sciences and engineering, and chemistry. Winners each receive $30,000; finalists receive $10,000.

"Tomo asked important science questions and was creative in designing new molecules to test his ideas, adept in chemical synthesis, astute in using the unique capabilities of the division's Accelerator Center for Energy Research, and insightful in his collaborations to understand how his results could give new meaning to molecular charge dynamics," said Alex Harris, chair of the Chemistry Division at Brookhaven. "We expect more great work will come from him, and we look forward to continuing our collaboration with him while he is at the University of Connecticut."

This fall, Mani is teaching a course on advanced physical chemistry and leading a new research group that seeks to understand how to control electronic excited states, charge and energy transfer reactions, and spin dynamics in molecules and molecular assemblies. For his research, he continues to combine various approaches, including chemical synthesis, photo- and radiation-chemistry experimental techniques, and theoretical and computational analysis. Part of his computational work will involve the use of the computer cluster at the Center for Functional Nanomaterials, a DOE Office of Science User Facility at Brookhaven Lab. Mani will be back at Brookhaven from October 10 through 14 to discuss his research at the 2016 International Conference on Ionizing Processes.

Mani regularly presents his work at conferences and is invited to talk at institutes throughout the United States and abroad. For the past five years, he has been mentoring undergraduate and graduate students. His professional memberships include the American Chemical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Japanese Photochemistry Association. He earned a BS in biochemistry from the University of Texas at Dallas in 2009 and a PhD in biochemistry and molecular biophysics at the University of Pennsylvania in 2013.

Mani, the other two regional award winners, and the six regional finalists will be honored at a ceremony during the New York Academy of Sciences Annual Gala on November 7, 2016 in New York City.
Brookhaven National Laboratory is supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit

DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory

Related Chemistry Articles:

Coordination chemistry and Alzheimer's disease
It has become evident recently that the interactions between copper and amyloid-β neurotoxically impact the brain of patients with Alzheimer's disease.
Can ionic liquids transform chemistry?
Table salt is a commonplace ingredient in the kitchen, but a different kind of salt is at the forefront of chemistry innovation.
Principles for a green chemistry future
A team led by researchers from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies recently authored a paper featured in Science that outlines how green chemistry is essential for a sustainable future.
Sugar changes the chemistry of your brain
The idea of food addiction is a very controversial topic among scientists.
Reflecting on the year in chemistry
A lot can happen in a year, especially when it comes to science.
Better chemistry through tiny antennae
A research team at The University of Tokyo has developed a new method for actively controlling the breaking of chemical bonds by shining infrared lasers on tiny antennae.
Chemistry in motion
For the first time, researchers have managed to view previously inaccessible details of certain chemical processes.
Researchers enrich silver chemistry
Researchers from Russia and Saudi Arabia have proposed an efficient method for obtaining fundamental data necessary for understanding chemical and physical processes involving substances in the gaseous state.
The chemistry behind kibble (video)
Have you ever thought about how strange it is that dogs eat these dry, weird-smelling bits of food for their entire lives and never get sick of them?
Top 10 chemistry start-ups
Starting a new chemistry-based company is one part discovery, one part risk.
More Chemistry News and Chemistry Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Making Amends
What makes a true apology? What does it mean to make amends for past mistakes? This hour, TED speakers explore how repairing the wrongs of the past is the first step toward healing for the future. Guests include historian and preservationist Brent Leggs, law professor Martha Minow, librarian Dawn Wacek, and playwright V (formerly Eve Ensler).
Now Playing: Science for the People

#566 Is Your Gut Leaking?
This week we're busting the human gut wide open with Dr. Alessio Fasano from the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital. Join host Anika Hazra for our discussion separating fact from fiction on the controversial topic of leaky gut syndrome. We cover everything from what causes a leaky gut to interpreting the results of a gut microbiome test! Related links: Center for Celiac Research and Treatment website and their YouTube channel
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Flag and the Fury
How do you actually make change in the world? For 126 years, Mississippi has had the Confederate battle flag on their state flag, and they were the last state in the nation where that emblem remained "officially" flying.  A few days ago, that flag came down. A few days before that, it coming down would have seemed impossible. We dive into the story behind this de-flagging: a journey involving a clash of histories, designs, families, and even cheerleading. This show is a collaboration with OSM Audio. Kiese Laymon's memoir Heavy is here. And the Hospitality Flag webpage is here.