Texas A&M University chemist Sarbajit Banerjee has been selected as the recipient of the 2021 Stanley C. Israel Regional Award for Advancing Diversity in the Chemical Sciences for the American Chemical Society Southwest Region.
Established in 2007 and sponsored by the ACS Committee on Minority Affairs, the annual award recognizes individuals and/or institutions who have advanced diversity in the chemical sciences and significantly stimulated or fostered activities that promote inclusiveness within a given ACS region. The award is named for the late Dr. Stanley C. Israel, a former dean of the College of Science at Texas State University (1997-2003) and a leader in the polymer chemistry community whose career was dedicated to education, research and the advancement of science.
Banerjee will be presented with the award, which includes a $1,000 prize and a commemorative plaque, during a November 2 awards program and dinner held in conjunction with the ACS Southwest Regional Meeting, set for October 31-November 3 in Austin and hosted by the ACS Central Texas Section.
Banerjee, a Davidson Chair in Science and 2019 Chancellor’s EDGES Fellow, joined the Texas A&M Department of Chemistry in 2014 and also is an affiliated faculty member in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the Texas A&M Energy Institute. Prior to coming to Texas A&M, he spent seven years as a professor at the University at Buffalo after earning his doctorate in chemistry at State University of New York at Stony Brook in 2004 and completing postdoctoral studies at Columbia University in 2007. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (2016) and Institute of Physics (2017) as well as a Cottrell Scholar (2011), Scialog Fellow (2013) and NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Fellow (2021).
During the past decade and a half, Banerjee has established himself as a leading expert in addressing some of the biggest challenges spanning inorganic chemistry, solid-state physics and materials engineering. Along the way, he has accumulated an equally impressive track record of mentoring undergraduate and graduate students as well as postdoctoral colleagues from communities traditionally underrepresented in the chemical sciences — several of whom have gone on to faculty positions and leading positions in industry. In addition to fostering a nurturing and inclusive environment within his research group, Banerjee has developed models for building authentic collaborations across academic departments and disciplines as well as between large public universities and minority-serving institutions. He is lauded by colleagues and students alike for his holistic approach that stresses research proficiency and independent thinking along with leadership skills and intense coaching in the unwritten rules of academia and tech startup ecosystems.
“In a world where social media posts often gather all the attention, it is important to note that Sarbajit’s inspirational words ‘for the soul’ are matched with tangible plans for research progress and a clear framework for scientific innovation that catapults students from being novices to consummate professionals,” said Texas A&M chemist David C. Powers, secretary of the local Texas A&M/ACS section. “In mentoring some of the most visible and successful underrepresented minority scholars in materials chemistry research today at research-intensive universities, he has planted the seeds for a more diverse, equitable and inclusive academia.”
In addition to 45 graduate students, Banerjee has mentored 65 undergraduates who have been co-authors on more than 30 publications and 100 presentations to date. He also serves as a co-principal investigator for the National Science Foundation-funded Texas A&M Chemistry Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program and as a contributor to Texas A&M’s NSF National Research Traineeship (NRT) Data-enabled Discovery and Design of Energy Materials (D3EM) project that is revered as a national model for interdisciplinary graduate education.
“His research group is a striking example of how science can bridge the traditional fault lines of race, religion and socioeconomic background,” said Texas A&M chemist Marcetta Y. Darensbourg, who served as Banerjee’s nominator for the award. “Through recruiting visits, cultivating relationships with institutions of all types, tailoring research projects to match the passion of students and intensive personal mentoring, he has built an inclusive and supportive community at Texas A&M that is grounded in academic excellence and tremendous scientific innovation. His student outcomes are unparalleled and demonstrate success at diversifying academia and in establishing Texas A&M as an epicenter for demonstrating how it is possible to combine research success at the highest levels with inclusivity and excellent mentoring of both undergraduate and graduate students.”
As an active ACS member and past chair of both the Texas A&M and Western New York Local Sections, Banerjee previously has been recognized for his record of research and mentoring excellence with a University at Buffalo NSF Bridge to the Doctorate Program Faculty Mentor Award (2009), the Research Corporation for Science Advancement Cottrell Scholar Award (2011), the American Physical Society Robert S. Hyer Graduate Student Mentor Award (2018), and the Texas A&M College of Science Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award (2019) and Leadership in Equity and Diversity Award (2021), among other distinctions. Earlier this year, he was selected by the Texas A&M student body as a Fish Camp namesake in recognition of his lasting impact on the community.
Banerjee’s additional career honors include the Beilby Medal and Prize (2016), the Rosenhain Medal and Prize (2015), the Royal Society of Chemistry Chemical Communications Emerging Investigator Award (2015), the Journal of Physical Chemistry C Lectureship (2013), the Minerals, Metals and Materials Society Young Leader Award (2013), the State University of New York Visionary Innovator Award (2010), the American Chemical Society ExxonMobil Solid-State-Chemistry Fellowship (2010) and an NSF CAREER Award (2009). In addition, he was named to MIT Technology Review’s global list of “top 35 innovators under the age of 35” in 2012 for the discovery of dynamically switchable smart windows technology that promises a dramatic reduction in the energy footprint of buildings.
“In these challenging and divided times, there is much we can learn from Professor Banerjee’s unique ability to mentor students from vastly different backgrounds and his forthright approach to building trust, communicating the opportunities made available by science, and turning diversity into strength,” Darensbourg said. “An entire generation of students at the University at Buffalo and Texas A&M have been enriched by his enthusiastic and inspirational engagement of undergraduates, his most remarkable ability to engage students in thoughtful discussions and meaningful research, the nurturing and inclusive environment that he fosters in his research laboratory and his classroom, his understated but profoundly empathetic mentoring, his infectious good cheer and dedication, and his lifelong commitment to mentoring relationships.”
To learn more about Banerjee and his teaching, research and service activities, visit https://www.chem.tamu.edu/faculty/sarbajit-banerjee/.
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