VCU chemistry professor appointed to direct a research program at NSF Chemistry Division

October 25, 2022

Samy El-Shall, Ph.D., professor and the Mary Eugenia Kapp Endowed Chair in Chemistry in the College of Humanities and Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University, has been appointed as a program director of the Chemical Structure, Dynamics and Mechanisms Program in the Division of Chemistry at the National Science Foundation.

“I became interested in the program director role because it gives me an opportunity to know the emerging scientific areas in chemistry and to participate in the evaluation of research proposals and make important funding decisions of the top research proposals which can have great impacts in advancing the knowledge of chemistry, accelerating the discovery of materials and new concepts and processes that can lead to new technological advances,” El-Shall said.

The NSF’s Division of Chemistry is responsible for roughly $250 million in federal funds that support chemistry research in the United States. Each program director in the division is responsible for managing the evaluation process of research proposals submitted in the specific program and to make recommendations for funding the top selected proposals, as well as to evaluate the progress made of all the funded projects. Additionally, the program director can create new funding opportunities in emerging areas in chemistry.

“For example, I am interested in creating new funding opportunities in the chemistry of sustainable water and energy, which would seek new innovative chemistry approaches to address the sustainability of clean water and renewable energy,” El-Shall said.

El-Shall’s research at VCU has been funded by the NSF since 1990 in areas of gas phase cluster reactions leading to the formation of complex organics in space and heterogeneous catalysis for energy and environmental applications.

He also has long been involved with NSF in reviewing proposals and participating in panel reviews and committees.

El-Shall joined VCU’s Department of Chemistry in 1989 and served as department chair from 2015-2021. During that time, he hired six new assistant professors in analytical, organic and physical chemistry.

“I am really happy and proud that all the faculty hired are very successful in their research (and also in teaching) and all of them have received significant research funding mostly from NSF,” he said.

When he returns to VCU after his term at NSF ends, El-Shall plans to actively engage with students and faculty in learning more about the funding opportunities at NSF and also in training faculty on writing successful proposals and in establishing collaborative research programs.

He added that he is also thinking of new ways to attract highly qualified graduate students to VCU to contribute to research. “I am hoping that NSF can provide additional funds specifically to recruit highly qualified graduate students for the projects that are already supported by NSF,” he said.