Karen L. Wooley, Ph.D., is a chemist recognized for her work on the design, synthesis and study of complex functional macromolecules. She is best known for her development of hierarchical supramolecular and covalent synthetic methodologies by which to assemble nanoscopic polymer materials, with attention to the use of natural products as building blocks to account for the full life cycle, end-of-life circularity and recyclability. Wooley was born and raised in Oakridge, Oregon, a small logging community in the mountains of Oregon, before completing undergraduate study in chemistry at Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon. Her graduate study was conducted under the direction of Professor Jean M. J. Fréchet at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York (Ph.D., 1993). She began an academic career as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, was promoted in 1999 to Full Professor with tenure, was installed in 2006 as a James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor in Arts & Sciences, and in 2007 received an appointment in the School of Medicine, Department of Radiology. Wooley relocated to Texas A&M University in July 2009 as the W. T. Doherty-Welch Chair in Chemistry and University Distinguished Professor, where she holds appointments in the Departments of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science & Engineering. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, the National Academy of Inventors, and the National Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

Karen L. Wooley's research interests include the synthesis and characterization of degradable polymers derived from natural products, unique macromolecular architectures and complex polymer assemblies, and the design and development of well-defined nanostructured materials. The development of novel synthetic strategies, fundamental study of physicochemical and mechanical properties, and investigation of the functional performance of her materials in the diagnosis and treatment of disease, as non-toxic anti-biofouling or anti-icing coatings, as materials for microelectronics device applications, and as environmental remediation systems are particular foci of her research activities. Her laboratory has developed techniques for multiple iterations of thermodynamically-driven and kinetically-controlled self-assembly of block copolymers, regiochemical covalent crosslinking within specific regions of the assemblies, and physical and/or chemical manipulation to produce highly complex and well-defined nanostructures having compositional, structural, morphological and functional sophistication that cannot be achieved via single stages of supramolecular assembly or covalent chemistry strategies alone. She has also designed synthetic strategies to harness the rich compositional, regiochemical and stereochemical complexity of natural products for the construction of hydrolytically-degradable polymers, which have impact toward sustainability, reduction of reliance on petrochemicals, and production of biologically-beneficial and environmentally-benign natural products upon degradation - these materials are expected to impact the global issue of plastic pollution. In addition to fundamental scholarly advances, Wooley emphasizes translation to commercial technologies.

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Primary Section

Section 14: Chemistry

Secondary Section

Section 33: Applied Physical Sciences