Prize Recipient

Zahra Fakhraai

Zahra Fakhraai
University of Pennsylvania


"For exceptional investigations of surface effects in polymer glasses and amyloid aggregation."


Zahra received her B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in physics from the Sharif University of Technology in Iran. She then joined Jamie Forrest’s group at the University of Waterloo to study the dynamics of polymers in thin films and on their surfaces (2003-2007). She received the American Physical Society’s Padden award (2007) for her work towards her Ph.D.  Zahra worked in the Gilbert Walker group at the University of Toronto (2008-2009) where she performed near-field infrared imaging of the structure and chemical composition of protein aggregates. Zahra received NSERC post-doctoral fellowship in 2009 and moved to Mark Ediger’s lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to study properties of stable glasses (2009-2011). Zahra joined the Department of Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania in 2011 where she is currently an Associate Professor and Graduate Chair with a secondary appointment at the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Her group at Penn combines experiments and modeling to explore the structure, dynamics, and optical properties of amorphous materials at nanometer length scale. A key aspect of these studies is to understand how surfaces and interfaces affect properties of amorphous materials and how these effects can be used to engineer novel packings of molecular glasses, polymers, composites, and biopolymers. Zahra is a member of the American Physical Society, American Chemical Society, Materials Research Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  She is the recipient of the NSF Career award (2014), Sloan fellowship in Chemistry (2015), the Journal of Physical Chemistry JPC-PHYS lectureship award (2017), and the APS Dillon Medal (2019).

Selection Committee:

2019 Selection Committee Members: Darrin Pochan (Chair), Jan Genzer, Amalie Frischknecht, Sanat Kumar, Murugappan Muthukumar, Steven Hudson, Lynn Loo, Arthi Jayaraman, Alan Nakatani