Angelika Neitzel, Ph.D., will join the University of Florida Department of Materials Science & Engineering as a holder of the Rhines Rising Star Robert DeHoff Assistant Professor of Materials Science & Engineering in January 2023.
Dr. Neitzel’s areas of research expertise include monomer and polymer synthesis, sustainable plastics, and the physics of oppositely charged polymer complexes.
Born and raised in Germany, Dr. Neitzel moved to the United States soon after she finished high school.
“After graduating high school, I was unsure what I wanted to do. I had an interest in nutrition but felt like I had no background to help me critically evaluate which dietary advice was grounded in reliable science,” Dr. Neitzel said. “There are no scientists in my family, so it never occurred to me that I could or would even want to be a scientist, let alone an engineer.”
To help build up her knowledge base, Dr. Neitzel enrolled in some introductory physics and chemistry courses at a local community college in Minneapolis. After completing those courses, she transferred to the University of Minnesota to continue her studies.
“Once I took organic chemistry, I knew I wanted to be a chemist,” Dr. Neitzel said.
She earned a bachelor’s in chemistry, but following an unfulfilling stint in graduate school, Dr. Neitzel returned to Minneapolis to reevaluate her career path.
“I didn’t even know what materials science was until after I left graduate school,” Dr. Neitzel said. “I researched biomedical engineering, pharmacology and pharmaceutics. Eventually, I realized that pursuing polymer science would make the most sense considering my expertise in organic chemistry.”
This path eventually led Dr. Neitzel to materials science with a focus on polymers, which allowed her to continue working as a synthetic chemist making macromolecules rather than small molecules.
While Dr. Neitzel’s path to studying materials science may have taken a few twists and turns, her zeal for teaching is rooted in childhood. There may not have been any engineers in her family, but Dr. Neitzel’s parents are also academics.
“My dad was a professor of classical philology, and my mom earned a doctorate in the same area,” Dr. Neitzel said. “I practically grew up in a library, with all available surfaces in our house covered in books. My parents are great teachers and extremely passionate about learning and sharing their enthusiasm for a subject with other people.”
Every time I teach a student in the lab, I learn something new. The fact that I’m constantly learning new things is extremely satisfying and keeps me interested.”
“With much enthusiasm, we look forward to Dr. Neitzel joining our department and the Gator nation, where she will continue the grand tradition of excellence in thermodynamics and polymeric materials, both of which are ingrained in our department’s history,” Michele Manuel, Ph.D., department chair, said. “Furthermore, her focus on sustainability, an area of intense interest to the global community and especially the next generation of students, will add a new, forward-thinking dimension to our program.”
Dr. Neitzel is eager to get started in both the classroom and the lab.
“My vision is to create a world-renowned polymer science program here at UF and to establish strong connections with other polymer scientists in the chemical engineering and chemistry departments,” Dr. Neitzel said. “I want to build a dynamic and diverse team that will make valuable contributions to our understanding of the self-assembly and phase behavior of charged polymers and to use this in the development of advanced materials that will be of relevance to human health and sustainability.”
Welcome to UF, Dr. Neitzel!
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