Chemist Adam Jaffe joins Notre Dame faculty

Author: Naya Tadavarthy

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Each new day in his lab, there is a good chance that Adam Jaffe and his group work with chemicals in combinations no scientist has ever used before. Jaffe, who joined the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry as an assistant professor this fall, synthesizes and studies new hybrid organic-inorganic compounds, to investigate the relationship between atomic structure and these materials’ properties. 

Jaffe employs high-tech lab equipment to explore the characteristics of these materials, which he is currently setting up in his new lab in Stepan Chemistry Hall. His favorite device uses diamonds to squeeze individual atoms together, so he can see how hybrid compounds behave under high pressure. 

As Jaffe studies materials at an atomic level, his research presents large-scale implications. His lab investigates if they can use the materials they make to improve energy technologies, like solar cells or batteries. 

“Generally, I’m interested in working at the very exploratory side of things,” Jaffe explained. “But then eventually, that’s all geared towards trying to solve energy problems and problems of the environment - trying to address and help facilitate a cleaner energy future.” 

Jaffe also shares these research interests with graduate students, as part of the solid state and material chemistry course he teaches.

“It’s not actually that common to get solid state and materials chemistry as part of the core curriculum, especially for undergraduates but even as graduate students, so that’s why I was really excited to come here and teach,” he said. 

Jaffe received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Princeton University in 2012 and his doctorate in inorganic chemistry from Stanford University in 2017. He then worked as a Ruth L. Kirschstein NIH Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, where he won the 2018 ACS Division of Inorganic Chemistry Young Investigator Award. 

Now, Jaffe is excited to share this experience with a new generation of researchers. “I really do love both teaching and mentorship, and so developing those… is really a two-way street,” he explained. “I’m going to learn so much from all of my students, and I’m really looking forward to that.”

Jaffe hopes to engage in outreach with the broader South Bend area, as well, to support educational opportunities in chemistry. On campus, he plans to collaborate with his fellow faculty, in and outside of his department, and work with the new initiatives and interdisciplinary centers Notre Dame offers.

“Having the opportunity to just have all of these resources, both in terms of personnel that I can interact with but also just equipment, facilities, and everything else in between, will allow me to get a dynamic research program off the ground,” Jaffe said.