A Scientist Stands with Ukraine

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine inspired a deep resolve among scientists around the globe to support their Ukrainian colleagues’ ongoing work.

Prominent academics stepping up to aid Ukrainian scientists and students include Drexel’s Yury Gogotsi, the Charles T. and Ruth M. Bach Distinguished University Professor at the College of Engineering and director of the AJ Drexel Nanomaterials Institute. Internationally recognized for developing materials for electrochemical capacitors, discovering new carbon structures and a family of two-dimensional carbides and nitrides – MXenes – that possess characteristics useful for everything from energy storage to removing mercury from seawater, Gogotsi is acknowledged as one of the world’s leading and most cited materials scientists.

An interest in science and engineering seems to reflect Gogotsi’s DNA, since he is the son of renowned Ukrainian scientist Professor George Gogotsi, who introduced principles of applied material mechanics such as the brittleness measure and the fracture barrier, and brother of Oleksiy Gogotsi, who directs the Materials Research Centre, Ltd., in Ukraine. His daughter, Natalie Gogotsi, BS/MS chemical and biological engineering ’14 and PhD in materials science and engineering (UPenn), is a researcher at Lockheed Martin’s elite Skunk Works facility, while his son, Pavel Gogotsi, BS engineering technology and electrical engineering ’15, is an Assembly, Technology and Launch Operations team peer lead for Millenium Space Systems and was featured in Drexel Magazine‘s 40 under 40 in 2022.

In March, Yury Gogotsi joined other world-class scientists and Nobel laureates of Ukrainian, Russian and Belarusian descent in calling for governments, foundations and agencies that fund scientific discovery to establish a fast-track visa process and residence status for Ukrainian scientists and to provide emergency funding for temporary research positions at universities and research institutes in the West. Their letter was published in Chemistry World by the Royal Society of Chemistry and widely circulated online. Numerous other articles, letters and statements from professional societies have been produced to support the Ukrainian research community.

Since May 2022, he has worked with undergraduate and graduate students in Ukraine by teaching and lecturing at several online events while developing research collaborations with faculty and researchers at Sumy State University and the Materials Research Center, Ltd. They jointly won a European research network grant to study MXenes’ biomedical applications by high-dimensional immune mapping. In one project, his collaboration with Ukrainian peers resulted in an important article on the use of MXenes in thermal ablation of tumor cells published in the American Chemical Society journal Applied Materials & Interfaces. He will serve as an affiliated professor at Sumy State University through August 2023, giving lectures, working with graduate students and faculty, and donating all his compensation to a Ukrainian charity.

He invited 12 Ukrainian researchers to give virtual presentations during the Second International MXene Conference, hosted by Drexel in August. He has two Ukrainian doctoral students working in his lab, he recruited a researcher from Dnipro as a visiting scientist and sought Department of Energy funding to support her work.

In the past month, he spoke remotely at the opening session of the Nano 2022 Conference, which was held in Lviv. As chair of the Scientific Committee of the YUCOMAT conference organized by the Materials Research Society of Serbia in Montenegro in early September, he secured a grant from the European Office or US Air Force that enabled 34 Ukrainian scientists to take part. When Sumy State University hosted and moved the 2022 IEEE-NAP 12th International Conference Nanomaterials: Applications & Properties to Krakow, Poland in September, Gogotsi gave a plenary lecture, participated as a panelist in the roundtable discussion on scientific publishing and engaged in numerous meetings with Ukrainian colleagues.

“No matter how much I do, how much of my time and money I donate to help Ukraine, I understand it’s still not enough,” Gogotsi says. “However, every contribution, even a small one, is important. Support from scientists all over the world is needed to help Ukrainian science survive the challenges of wartime and to fully integrate Ukrainian scientists into the international research community.”

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