Department of Chemistry
Valerie Ashby

Valerie Ashby

Professor & Department Chair
919-962-2388 (fax)
Caudill 239


Research Interests

Polymer Design & Synthesis, Polymer Composites, Biomaterial Synthesis

Professional Background

B.A. Chemistry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1988); Ph.D. Chemistry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1994), Advisor: Joseph M. DeSimone, Kodak Corporate Research Fellowship, 1995 ACS Graduate Research Award in Polymeric Materials Science and Engineering; National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow and NATO Postdoctoral Fellow (1994-1995), Universitat Mainz, Germany, Advisor: Reimund Stadler; National Science Foundation in a Faculty Early Career Development Award (1997-2001); Dupont Young Faculty Award (1997-2000); 3M Young Faculty Award (1998-2001); UNC's Sitterson Award for Freshman Teaching (2008); Faculty Service Award, (2014)

Research Synopsis

Our research group focuses on the design and synthesis of polymers and the design and fabrication of polymer composites. We utilize unique approaches to address the continued need for new materials with advanced properties. In line with these priorities, the research explores a broad range of topics from polymer/quasicrystal composites to high performance polymers to functionalized elastomers to our newest interest, functionalized biomaterials. The first project in the group, the design, fabrication and study of polymer quasicrystal composites is an exciting, growing area. Our group was the first to produce these unique composites that combine the low surface energy, high hardness, high scratch resistance, and high thermal stability of quasicrystals with the well-known processing techniques of polymeric matrices. The potential increase in the lifetime of prosthetics such as hip joint replacements, as well as in other low wear mechanical part applications, is tremendous.

The second project in the group addresses a materials problem with a synthetic methodology approach. A lack of functional group versatility, poor processing, difficult synthetic techniques, molecular weight limitations, poor film-forming ability are a few of the problems which have plagued thermally and mechanically stable materials. Our group utilizes metal-catalyzed coupling reactions to overcome many of these obstacles and lead to new materials that have a unique combination of properties including flame retardance, excellent insulating ability, film-forming ability, and water and organic solvent resistance.

Finally, the group seeks to design and prepare new materials using functionalized diene-containing monomers. This research opens the door to the formation of polymers to be used as adhesives, elastomers, blend compatibilizers, coatings, etc. In addition, the most recent work in the group utilizes many of these compounds to synthesize new functionalized biomaterials with target applications in drug delivery and gene therapy. The ability to attach targeting groups, cell fusion promoters, mechanical property-enhancing groups, etc. would significantly advance performance.

Because of the variety of materials made in the group, students utilize several analytical techniques including 1D and 2D NMR, gel permeation chromatography, light scattering, differential scanning calorimetry, thermal gravimetric analysis, dynamic mechanical analysis, and electron microscopy.


Edward Samulski