Alumni Profile: Zahra Fakhraai

Zahra Fakhraai
Zahra Fakhraai

PhD Physics ‘07

Associate Professor of Chemistry,
University of Pennsylvania,
Philadelphia, PA, USA

Dr Fakhraai received her BSc and MSc degrees from Sharif University of Technology in Iran, before completing her PhD at UW. At the University of Pennsylvania she works with a diverse group of graduate and undergraduate students with chemistry, physics, and materials science backgrounds. Together they develop new experimental methods that enables studies of materials properties at nanometer scale. These findings are used to design new materials,, resulting in drastically improved properties.

Zahra is co-director of REACT (Research and Education in Active Coating Technologies for the Human Habitat) project at University of Pennsylvania aimed at training graduate and undergraduate fellows whose research is focused on developing new coatings for disaster relief tents. Undergraduate teaching and mentorship is an important part of Fakhraai’s mission at UPenn. She applies concepts of inclusive teaching in her classrooms by adopting Structured, Active, In-Class Learning (SAIL) format, which gives students the responsibility to independently learn and collaborate in a structured setting. These efforts are aimed at training the next generation of STEM leaders.

In addition to numerous publications and a demanding schedule as an invited speaker, Dr Fakhraai is involved in many volunteer committees and outreach activities. One popular talk, “What Do Bullet-Proof Windows, Silly Putty and Tires have in Common?” reached a wide community base inspiring young and old, scientists and non-scientists.