Frontiera, Massari, Pomerantz, and Tonks promoted to full professor

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (10/12/2023) – Four Chemistry faculty members – Renee Frontiera, Aaron Massari, William Pomerantz, and Ian Tonks – received promotion to full professor, effective this fall. 

portrait of Professor Renee Frontiera

Northrop Professor Renee Frontiera joined the Department of Chemistry in 2013, and holds a graduate appointment in chemical physics. Prior to joining the faculty at UMN, Frontiera completed her doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley. She was then a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University from 2010 - 2013, the year she joined Chemistry.

Frontiera’s research group focuses on developing and applying Raman spectroscopic techniques to determine how nanoscale local environments impact chemical reaction dynamics. The group’s research is highly interdisciplinary, investigating current problems at the interface of chemistry, biology, and materials science. The Frontiera group believes that science needs a diversity of views and experiences, and is committed to advocacy while providing an inclusive, collaborative, and respectful environment.

Frontiera is a committed teacher and mentor, mentoring and advising. She is the adviser to ten graduate students, two undergraduate students, and three postdoctoral researchers. Alumni of the Frontiera group include 31 students and postdocs.

She has been recognized with a number of awards, including the Time-Resolved Vibrational Spectroscopy Young Investigator Award (2023), being named a Blavatnik National Award for Young Scientists, Finalist (2022), the American Physical Society Future of Chemical Physics Lectureship Award (2021), the Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award (2019), the Guillermo E. Borja Career Development Award (2019), the Journal of Physical Chemistry C Lectureship (2018), the James L. Kinsey Memorial Lectureship, Rice University (2018), the DOE Early Career Award (2017), the Chemical & Engineering News Talented 12 (2017), the 3M Non-Tenured Faculty Award (2017), the McKnight Land-Grant Professorship (2017 - 2019), the NIH Maximizing Investigators Research Award (2016), and the NSF CAREER Award (2016).

portrait of Professor Aaron Massari

Professor and Director of Graduate Studies Aaron Massari has been a member of the Department of Chemistry since 2006. He came to UMN after completing his PhD at Northwestern University in 2004, and postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University in 2006.

Research in the Massari Group utilizes vibrational sum frequency generation (VSFG) and two-dimensional infrared (2D-IR) spectroscopy to study the interfacial structure and ultrafast dynamics of organic electronic materials. Students in the group learn many facets of linear and nonlinear spectroscopy, electrochemistry, and materials characterization to understand how energy flows through molecules and materials, which affects the way that things heat up and cool down, the way that electricity moves, and the speed that chemical reactions occur. 

Aaron has been continually involved in a number of departmental initiatives and programs, including Energy and U, the Department of Chemistry’s biannual interactive chemistry show – which teaches third, fourth, and fifth graders about the First Law of Thermodynamics. With the help of his direction, the program has served over 100,000 Twin Cities metro-area students. He is also involved in the Chemistry Diversity and Inclusion Committee and the University on the Prairie outreach program. He stepped into the role of Director of Graduate Studies in 2020. Along the way he has served as adviser for a total of 38 undergraduates, graduate students and postdocs.

His dedication to teaching, mentorship, and research has been recognized with awards including the University of Minnesota Council of Graduate Students Outstanding Advisor Award (2020), George W. Taylor/College of Science & Engineering Alumni Society Award for Distinguished Teaching (2014), IREE Early Investigator Award (2010), an NSF CAREER award (2008), and the 3M Nontenured Faculty Award (2008).

Will Pomerantz 2023 headshot

Merck Professor of Chemistry William C.K. Pomerantz joined the UMN faculty as an Assistant Professor in 2012. He came to Minnesota after completing his PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2008, postdoctoral appointment at the University of Michigan in 2012.

His research focuses on the development of chemical biology and medicinal chemistry approaches for modulating transcription factor function through disruption of protein-protein interactions. Several areas of innovation have included the application of protein-observed 19F NMR (PrOF NMR) for fragment-based drug discovery, development of new epigenetic inhibitors of BET and non-BET bromοdomains, the design of highly fluorinated molecules for 19F MRI, and  sustainable organofluorine chemistry. Pomerantz’s research group is made up of 11 graduate students, five undergraduates, and one postdoctoral associate.

Pomerantz is currently the co-director of the NIH T32 Chemistry Biology Interface Training Grant (CBITG), which works to provide rigorous and interdisciplinary training to a diverse and inclusive community of biomedical scientists. The CBITG provides trainees with the skills necessary to grow into accomplished professionals both in their primary area of interest (e.g., synthetic/mechanistic organic and inorganic chemistry, molecular biology, mechanistic enzymology, medicinal chemistry) and in a complementary field by cross-discipline research interactions and experiences. 

He was also recently named a new Topic Editor for ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters, an ACS Transformative Journal, in October 2023. ACS Med. Chem. Lett. publishes studies in a variety of areas of medicinal chemistry, including compound design and optimization, biological evaluation, drug delivery, imaging agents, and pharmacology of both small and large bioactive molecules. Pomerantz’s background in structure-based design and fragment-based drug discovery lend him a unique perspective as he is on the lookout for new emerging technologies that may make a significant impact on the field of drug discovery.

Pomerantz has been recognized with many honors, including the George W. Taylor Award for Distinguished Teaching (2022), the NIH Maximizing Investigators Research Award (2021), being selected to co-lead the International Chemical Biology Society Global Council in 2020, the McKnight Presidential Fellowship in (2018), the Guillermo E. Borja Career Development Award (2018), being named a Cottrell Scholar by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement (2016), the international Chemical Biology Society’s Rising Star Award (2016),  the University of Minnesota McKnight Land-Grant Professorship (2016-2018), the Kimmel Scholar Award from the Sidney Kimmel Foundation for Cancer Research (2015), and an NSF CAREER Award (2014).

portrait of Professor Ian Tonks

Associate Department Head and Lloyd H. Reyerson Professor Ian Tonks started as an assistant professor at UMN in 2013 after initially moving to the midwest to complete his postdoctoral research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Prior to that, he earned his PhD at the California Institute of Technology in 2011.

Research in the Tonks Group is focused on the development of earth abundant, sustainable catalytic methods using early transition metals, and also on catalytic strategies for incorporation of CO2 into polymers. The group is made up of ten graduate students, five undergraduates, and two postdoctoral researchers. 

In summer 2023, Tonks was named Associate Department Head. In his new role, he is responsible for oversight of the department's teaching mission, including faculty teaching assignments and graduate student TAs. In addition to service roles within the department, he is an associate editor at the ACS journal Organometallics.

Tonks has been honored with awards and opportunities including a Visiting Professorship at ETH-Zürich (2022 - 2023), the Lloyd H. Reyerson Professorship (2021), an ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety LSI Graduate Research Faculty Safety Award (2021), the DOE Early Career Award (2019), the ACS Organometallics Distinguished Author Award (2019), the McKnight Land-Grant Professorship (2018), the Thieme Chemistry Journals Award (2018), ACS Organic Division Academic Young Investigator award (2018), Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship (2017), and the NIH Outstanding Investigator Award (MIRA) (2016). Tonks Group alumni include over 50 graduate students, undergraduates, postdoctoral associates, and visiting scholars; many of whom have also earned many awards and fellowships, including for example UMN Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships, Goldwater Scholarships, and NIH NRSA Postdoctoral Fellowships.