Professor Tizazu Mekonnen has been awarded the Macromolecular Science and Engineering Division (MSED)  Early Career Instigator Award. The award is sponsored by NOVA Chemicals.

This honour is bestowed upon researchers who have made substantial contributions to the polymer industry, aligning perfectly with Mekonnen's disruptive research in polymer engineering and sustainability.

Mekonnen spearheads a dynamic research program focusing on material sustainability. His initiatives range from developing polymers sourced sustainably to creating compostable plastics, crafting eco-friendly nanomaterials, and exploring low-carbon alternatives.

Mekonnen maintains extensive collaborations in his research. He works with multidisciplinary teams at the University of Waterloo and other institutions, as well as with industry leaders like E.I. DuPont, AirBoss America Corp., CTK Bio Canada and Mondelez International.  He collaborates with governmental bodies, such as Natural Resources Canada. Mekonnen receives funding from multiple sources including NSERC Discovery.

“I am so lucky to work with talented graduate students and postdoctoral fellows at the University of Waterloo, who contributed immensely to our various innovations and publications,” says Mekonnen, Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Multiphase Polymers.” I would also like to acknowledge the contributions from my wonderful collaborators at the University of Waterloo and other institutions in Canada and abroad.”

His research group concentrates on the efficient and sustainable transformation of natural macromolecules into polymer building blocks, crafting multi-phase, multifunctional polymer systems with recycling, biodegradation, and composting in mind. His team also explores upcycling and recycling of polymers, and the application of sustainable polymers in the environmental, construction, packaging, food, agriculture, and confectionery industries. Additionally, the group conducts research into rubber and elastomer modification and processing.

Mekonnen recently published a research paper in a top journal chronicling how the research group was able to design technology to remove nanoplastics from water systems with 94 percent efficiency

With over $4.8 million in funding, Mekonnen has done groundbreaking research producing invaluable experimental data. His 122 peer-reviewed articles and 12 patent applications, along with his state-of-the-art research facilities, cement his status as an emerging leader in sustainable polymer research.

“I’m honoured to receive this award,” says Mekonnen. “The competition is among engineers and chemists. The list of competitors for this prize is outstanding. I’m thrilled to be recognized by such a well-known and respected community.”

Mekonnen has been asked to deliver a keynote lecture when he receives this prestigious award at the Canadian Chemical Engineering Society Conference, which takes place in Toronto next fall.