Published: May 3, 2022 By

Tayler Hebner
Tayler Hebner

Tayler Hebner, a PhD candidate in the White and Bowman groups, is a 2022 finalist for the Eastman Chemical Student Award in Applied Polymer Science.

Hebner will present “Tuning Fundamental Properties in Liquid Crystalline Elastomers for Design of Complex and Reprogrammable Actuation” at the Eastman Chemical Award Symposium at the Fall 2022 American Chemical Society Meeting in Chicago and be recognized at the PMSE/POLY Plenary Lecture and Awards Reception on August 24.

“This research is about understanding fundamental properties of liquid crystalline elastomers and using these properties to develop materials that exhibit complex shape changes in response to heat and light,” Hebner said. “These responsive polymers are designed for applications such as soft robotics, since the shape changes exhibited by the elastomers mimic the contraction of muscles.”

Hebner has pursued this line of research because of her interest in functional applications of responsive polymers, and her desire to understand what drives the functional aspects at a fundamental level.

“This research has allowed me to explore topics that span from the design of polymers at a molecular level to designing macroscopic actuators,” she said.

Hebner thanked her advisors, Distinguished Professor Christopher Bowman and Gallogly Professor Timothy White, who encouraged her to apply for this opportunity.

“This recognition is well-deserved,” White said. “Her work generally is focused on liquid crystalline elastomers, and her research has spanned synthetic chemistry, polymer physics and mechanics. Her studies have both answered fundamental questions about these materials as well as advanced their performance to enable functional use in applications such as soft robotics.”

Hebner will complete her PhD in chemical engineering in August. She plans on pursuing a postdoctoral position as a first step toward a career in academia.