Supported by the Humboldt Research Fellowship, Prof. Smaranda Marinescu takes her research abroad to the Max Planck Institute


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About > News 2022 > Supported by the Humboldt Foundation, Prof. Smaranda Marinescu performs her sabbatical studies at the Max Planck Institute in Germany

Supported by the Humboldt Foundation, Prof. Smaranda Marinescu performs her sabbatical studies at the Max Planck Institute in Germany

By Em Tielman - September 27, 2022

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation is a prestigious, federally funded organization that sponsors collaborative research between host institutions in Germany and scholars from around the world. Each year, the foundation awards the Humboldt Research Fellowship to postdoctoral and experienced researchers, allowing them to visit Germany for 6-24 months to conduct research while having access to the resources of their chosen host institution. This year, Prof. Smaranda Marinescu was selected by a committee of experts for this important opportunity.

Marinescu is an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry at USC. Before joining the faculty in 2013, she completed her Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Postdoctoral studies at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). At Caltech, she was supported by an NSF fellowship through the NSF Center for Chemical Innovation Program. Her current research interest is the development of biologically inspired catalytic systems for the conversion of solar energy into chemical bonds. Under her direction, the Marinescu Group conducts experiments with exciting implications for H2 evolution and CO2 reduction, thus lowering dependence on fossil fuels.

With support from the Humboldt Foundation, Prof. Marinescu has chosen to work with Prof. Dr. Serena DeBeer at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion, a research institute within the world-renowned Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science. Prof. DeBeer specializes in spectroscopy as well as the study of enzymes and metal complexes. This collaboration will benefit the Marinescu Group's research insofar as the DeBeer group has access to well-established synchrotron capabilities, such as X-ray absorption (XAS) and X-ray emission (XES) spectroscopy studies, which will reveal more information about the electronic structure of the cobalt- and sulfur-containing compounds the Marinescu group has developed. The expertise of both chemists and their collaboration are expected to result in crucial understanding towards developing electrocatalytic complexes and metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) to convert renewable energy into chemical bonds. This, in turn, would allow scalable energy conversion and storage and would take Prof. Marinescu one step closer to her overall goal of promoting environmental sustainability.

Of this distinguished honor, Prof. Marinescu says, "It's a great opportunity." She goes on to acknowledge the significance of student research to the next phase of her work as she comments, "I am very grateful for all the contributions of past and present group members have made over the years. Their discoveries shaped our current understanding of this emerging field."

This will be Prof. Marinescu's first visit to Germany, and she is looking forward to two visits in the spring of 2023 and 2024. In addition to interacting with the DeBeer group, Marinescu will give a number of presentations, including a student-hosted seminar at the Max Planck Institute. Though she will be abroad for part of the spring and summer semesters for the following two years, she will continue to serve as a vital member of the Department of Chemistry as a professor, mentor, and an experienced researcher, representing our university within an international community of scientists.

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