Anastassia Alexandrova, an assistant professor in UCLA’s department of chemistry and biochemistry and a member of UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute, has received a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation. The CAREER award is the organization’s most prestigious award in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research.

The award will support Alexandrova’s research program on the applied theory of chemical bonding, focusing on heterogeneous catalytic interfaces decorated with small clusters of transition metals. She and her research team design new catalysts of this kind, building up from detailed understanding of their electronic structure, to the shapes, stability and catalytic properties.

“We really take the undergraduate chemistry language of chemical bonding and extend it to the systems that constitute our last frontiers, introduce new concepts of chemical bonding and then we use these developments to design new catalytic materials,” she said. “We also develop new software for multi-scale modeling of heterogeneous interfaces at realistic conditions of high temperature and pressure, thus bridging the gap between fundamental model studies and realities of industrial catalytic processes.”

Alexandrova and the chemists in her laboratory are interested in both pure chemistry — how, for example, an enzyme that contains a metal atom catalyzes a chemical reaction at the atomic level — and applied chemistry.

"We are interested in the choices that nature makes for certain metals to play a catalytic role in different enzymes," said Alexandrova, who earlier this year was appointed to the editorial board of the research publication, Scientific Reports. She will serve as an editor in chemical physics.