Oleg Davydovich is a fifth-year Ph.D. student studying chemistry at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. At the Beckman Institute, he collaborates with researchers in the Autonomous Materials Systems Group, including Nancy Sottos, Charles Schroeder, Joaquín Rodríguez-López, and Beckman Institute Director Jeffrey Moore. His research focuses on end-of-life management in thermoplastics and thermoset materials.
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
When did you first take an interest in your field?
I took interest in chemistry in middle school after my older brother introduced me to the field. Immediately after starting at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, I began working as an undergraduate research assistant with Professor Preston Moore studying the computational modeling of drug lipid interactions. After one year of computational research, I decided to combine computations with benchwork by designing a new project with the help of Professor Alexander Sidorenko that focused on nanopatterning surfaces with polymers. This research experience was the spark for my passion for becoming a polymer chemist.
What kind of research are you working on?
My current work focuses on synthesizing destructible structural plastics using a rapid, energy-efficient process called frontal polymerization. Using this method, I incorporate small amounts of cleavable units into plastic materials which offer a means of triggering destruction without compromising material properties. Once the material has served its purpose, it can be broken down into small-molecule byproducts that can be repurposed or upcycled into other materials.
Beckman’s mission is to build a better world. How does your research make our world better?
My research directly targets the looming threat of plastic pollution. My aim is to design new materials that can be triggered to destruct after reaching the end of their lifecycle. These materials will bring society closer to the goal of achieving a sustainable circular economy.
How has your affiliation with the Beckman Institute helped you?
The Beckman Institute provided me with a collaborative environment. I currently work with several electrochemists, materials scientists, and polymer physicists who have all contributed significantly to my thesis. Without these collaborations, the impact of my work would be greatly diminished.
Describe a transformative moment or experience you have had at Beckman.
Joining the Autonomous Materials Systems Group was probably the most transformative moment since it introduced me to the real impact of interdisciplinary collaboration. Working in a multidisciplinary environment drastically broadened the scope of my knowledge and gave my research context and purpose.
Tell us about your post-university plans!
I recently accepted a job as a postdoc at the Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico working on plastic recycling and upcycling.
What do you like to do outside of the classroom or lab?
I enjoy playing sports (mainly soccer) and learning digital illustration and 3D modeling, and I love to host events for my friends. I also volunteer as part of an organization called Encouraging Tomorrow’s Chemists, which gives kids hands-on experience with chemistry.
Favorite local restaurant: Easy choice! Baldarotta's.
Top three songs at the moment: "The Less I Know the Better," Tame Impala; "Planet X," Calimossa; "Goodie Bag," Still Woozy
Over winter break: I enjoyed going back home to Philly to eat some cannoli and Philly cheesesteaks!
Favorite winter activity: Ice skating
Currently streaming/watching: Ozark and Station Eleven