MANHATTAN — Tendai Gadzikwa, assistant professor of chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences at Kansas State University, has received a $779,556 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Program award, known as a CAREER award, to study molecular reactions in confined spaces with the goal of designing more efficient catalysts.According to Gadzikwa, the development of new catalysts is integral to the sustainability goals of the chemical industry. Catalysts accelerate reactions, minimize unwanted products and facilitate more direct routes to chemical products. They also reduce energy consumption, environmental waste and expenses related to synthesizing pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, infrastructure materials and more.Gadzikwa’s lab studies, designs and synthesizes materials known as metal-organic frameworks, or MOFs. Their physical and chemical structures are modeled after the active sites of enzymes, which are the most efficient catalysts known to researchers.“These porous materials have nanoscale cavities decorated with several chemical functionalities, and when molecules are confined in such spaces, they can exhibit surprising reactivity,” said Gadzikwa, who will be promoted to associate professor in July.The project, “CAREER: Confinement Effects and Emergent Behavior in Multifunctional MOF-Based Catalysts,” aims to better understand these confinement effects and the molecular origins of the unexpected behavior and then to design and construct more efficient catalysts.Trevor Hefley, associate professor of statistics and consulting faculty at the K-State Statistical Consulting Lab, will collaborate on advanced statistical analysis of experiment results.The award will also support outreach efforts of the K-State student chapter of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers. Established in 2020 by Gadzikwa, who serves as its faculty advisor, the chapter is one of only two in the Great Plains region.“I am very excited about Tendai’s CAREER award, which reflects the chemistry community’s high regard for her proposed research,” said Chris Culbertson, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Awards like these not only propel state-of-the-art research but also support the training of undergraduate and graduate students, allowing us to remain competitive in high-technology industries.”