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Headshot of Dr. Karen Wooley
Dr. Karen Wooley’s research focuses on the design, synthesis and characterization of novel polymers. | Image: Courtesy of Dr. Karen Wooley

Dr. Karen Wooley has been named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for her contributions to the fields of organic and polymer chemistry, particularly for the synthesis and applications of functional polymer materials and nanoscopic objects.

Wooley is the W.T. Doherty-Welch Foundation Chair in Chemistry and a professor in the Department of Chemistry and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University.

Wooley said she and her students are constantly evolving their research directions and research targets to adjust to emerging societal needs.

Her current research focuses on the design, synthesis, and characterization of novel polymers that are inspired by biology, like viral capsids, lipoproteins, and even dolphin skin. She then uses these nature-inspired molecular building blocks to develop novel materials for real-world applications. In particular, her research applies concepts from synthetic organic chemistry, analytical/physical chemistry, biology and engineering to the synthesis and investigation of functional polymer materials – macromolecules – designed for purpose and technological applications.  

In addition to addressing the growing plastics pollution crisis, she designs materials that can be used as nanomedicines for the treatment of infectious diseases or environmental remediation agents, such as superabsorbent degradable materials that can prevent flooding and mitigate drought. 

She is also an active collaborator and has a publication coming out soon that details research toward degradable and recyclable organic radical battery materials being developed with Dr. Jodie Lutkenhaus. 

This year 489 members have been awarded this honor by AAAS because of their scientific research or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. 

Fellows were formally announced in the AAAS journal Science on Nov. 27. A virtual Fellows Forum, an induction ceremony for the new fellows, will be held on Feb. 13.