Polymer Scientist Sokolov Named Second UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair

Renowned polymer scientist Alexei Sokolov has been named as the second University of Tennessee-Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor’s Chair.

“This is another important step forward toward our goal to build the university’s capabilities and reputation as a leading national research institution,” said acting UT President Jan Simek in making the announcement.

The Governor’s Chair program, funded by the state of Tennessee and ORNL, is designed to attract top scientists to take part in the unique research partnership that exists between the state’s flagship university and the nation’s largest multi-program laboratory.

“The impact of the work performed by Governor’s Chair scientists can make a lasting difference for our state’s future,” said Gov. Phil Bredesen. “I believe Tennessee can become a world leader in the realm of solar and other forms of renewable energy, and I hope the work of Dr. Sokolov will contribute to our research and advancement in this important area.”

Sokolov will serve as the Governor’s Chair for Polymer Science and will hold appointments in the UT Knoxville chemistry department and the chemical sciences division at ORNL.

“Our Governor’s Chair program is built to bring the world’s best to Tennessee, and Dr. Sokolov is a fine example of just that,” said UT Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek. “His work will complement and enhance the productive research partnership between our two institutions in this vital field.”

Polymer scientists build and alter unique materials made up of very large molecules in a quest to control their properties. It’s a field with applications from renewable energy to understanding DNA and viruses. Sokolov uses a variety of tools, including powerful lasers and neutrons, to understand the materials.

“Dr. Sokolov is the perfect choice to help us tackle energy challenges such as solar cells and storage batteries,” said ORNL Director Thom Mason. “He will strengthen a joint polymer program that is already among the nation’s best.”

Currently the Knowles Professor of Polymer Science at the University of Akron, where he has served since 1998, Sokolov previously served at IFF Forschungszentrum Julich, the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Science, and FU Berlin in Germany. He also was a researcher and senior scientist at the Institute of Automation & Electrometry of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Sokolov holds four patents, and last year was named a fellow of the American Physical Society.

He earned his master’s degree in physics from Novosibirsk State University in Russia, and his Ph.D. and postdoctoral certification from the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Sokolov will be the second joint UT Knoxville-ORNL distinguished researcher with a focus on polymer chemistry. He will join Jimmy Mays, a UT-ORNL distinguished scientist who also focuses on the research and development of polymers.

About the Governor’s Chair program:

The UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair program is designed to attract exceptionally accomplished researchers from around the world to boost joint research efforts that position the partnership as a leader in the fields of biological science, computational science, advanced materials and neutron science.

More than $20 million in designated funding from the state and ORNL is being invested to recruit and fund the positions, which include resources to support new research efforts.

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