Jessica Hoover joins Department of Chemistry faculty

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (4/28/2023) – The Department of Chemistry will welcome Professor Jessica Hoover to the faculty in fall 2023. Hoover joins the University of Minnesota from West Virginia University (WVU), where she has been a faculty member since 2012. 

Hoover’s interest in catalysis has been the focus of her work since her undergraduate studies. She graduated with a BS in Chemistry from Harvey Mudd College in 2004 before arriving at the University of Washington to pursue her PhD with Professors James M. Mayer and Forrest E. Michael. Upon completion of her doctorate in 2009, she was a postdoctoral researcher with Professor Shannon Stahl at the University of Wisconsin, Madison until 2012, when she joined the WVU faculty.

Catalytic methods – which have widespread applications ranging from the large-scale synthesis of commodity chemicals to the fine chemical and pharmaceutical industries – are at the center of Hoover’s research. Many of today’s societal challenges, including those related to health, energy, and the environment, will be solved with catalytic strategies. Solutions to these challenges require a fundamental understanding of the catalysts and their mechanisms. Research in the Hoover Group is focused on mapping the mechanisms of organic transformations catalyzed by transition- metal complexes, with particular interest in catalytic redox reactions in which bond- breaking and -forming steps occur along with oxidation or reduction steps. Hoover works to develop new organic reactions, synthesize and characterize organometallic intermediates, and measure reaction kinetics. For her dedication to her research, Hoover was named a National Academy of Sciences Kavli Fellow in 2020, earned the WVU Eberly College Outstanding Researcher award in 2020, and was named a WVU Benedum Distinguished Scholar for the 2021 - 2022 academic year.

At UMN, the Hoover Group will still focus on organometallic catalysis, but the move to the UMN-TC campus will provide the opportunity to grow the program. Hoover Group research has always been inspired by societal challenges related to health, energy and the environment; moving to UMN will allow Hoover and her team to take on larger challenges, unlocking the potential to have a greater impact in these areas. 

“We plan to leverage our expertise in decarboxylation chemistry to develop a new strategy for the selective valorization of plastics waste. In this space, we’re excited to interface with the Center for Sustainable Polymers and the research groups involved. I’m very excited for the opportunity to grow our research program, to partner with others in the department to take on larger challenges with societal importance and over time to contribute to – or initiate – new collaborative endeavors,” Hoover says about her future as a part of the UMN community.

Hoover is dedicated to providing research opportunities for students from underrepresented groups and undergraduates more broadly. In her time at WVU, Hoover mentored 38 undergraduate researchers through a number of programs including Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU), Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE), Research Apprenticeship Programs (RAP), and Honors Excel programs. She also served as a mentor for first-generation pre-college students through the First2 program. In 2020, Hoover was recognized with the WVU Faculty Award for Distinction in Mentoring Undergraduates in Research.

By initiating and leading a cross-college chemistry-sculpture program called Community Engagement in Science Through Art (CESTA) at WVU, Hoover got students excited about interdisciplinary creation and study. The program ran for four years; each summer the program invited six students in chemistry, engineering, and sculpture to design and construct a chemistry-related art installation to engage the local community in chemistry. Hoover was awarded the Eberly College Outstanding Public Service Award in 2021 for her development of CESTA. 

When it comes to UMN, Hoover says she was drawn to the departmental emphasis on safety and building an inclusive environment, which aligns well with her values and interests. She is looking forward to continuing her outreach initiatives and engaging in new ones on campus. When she’s not busy setting up her new lab, Hoover says she’s looking forward to getting into cross-country skiing and other winter activities in Minnesota. She also enjoys gardening, baking, and hiking.