Massari and Roberts receive 3M Alumni Professorships

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (1/19/2024) – Professor Aaron Massari and Assistant Professor Courtney Roberts have been named 3M Alumni Professors. The award – which recognizes comprehensive excellence in teaching, mentorship, and outreach – grants recipients the honorary title for five years.

Professor Aaron Massari has been a member of the Department of Chemistry since the start of his professorial career in 2006. The Massari group studies the interfacial structure and ultrafast dynamics of organic electronic materials with vibrational sum frequency generation (VSFG) and two-dimensional infrared (2D-IR) spectroscopies. Group members explore a variety of facets of linear and nonlinear spectroscopy, electrochemistry, and materials characterization.

Aaron has been continually involved in a number of departmental initiatives and programs, including Energy and U, the Chemistry Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and the University on the Prairie outreach program. In addition to his research and outreach projects, Aaron 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).

Assistant Professor Courtney Roberts came to UMN in 2019 – she is the first ever pre-tenure recipient of the 3M Alumni Professorship. Her group’s chemistry uses inorganic and organometallic chemistry and catalysis to solve fundamental problems in organic chemistry related to energy and pharmaceuticals. Their research foci include superseding limitations in aryne reactions, early transition metals for catalysis, and redox-neutral photoredox catalysis.

Courtney and Aaron organize the cheMNext program. This fall weekend experience aims to bring a diverse group of prospective graduate students to the University of Minnesota campus for an immersive learning experience about our Chemistry PhD program. Courtney’s outreach activities reach beyond the borders of campus through ChemWMN, a mentorship network that has paired hundreds of students interested in academia with women faculty mentors.

Courtney’s promising research was recently recognized with the 2024 Theime Chemistry Journal Award. Her enthusiasm for her science and community have been previously recognized with the Amgen's Young Investigator Award (2023), an NSF CAREER Award (2023),  the NIH Maximizing Investigators Research Award (2022),  the American Chemical Society Leadership Development Award (2021), and the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2013). 

In 1979, the original endowment for this professorship was created by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Heinze to eventually grow to support a faculty title. About 10 years later, it evolved to become the 3M-Alumni Endowed Professorship. At that time, UMN alumni working at 3M made donations that were matched by the company, then those donations were then matched yet again by a UMN incentive at the time. The endowment was created from the start to support faculty at the pre-tenure and tenured levels. The first recipient was Prof. Paul Barbara in 1995, followed by Regents Prof. Larry Que in 2000. Since 2015 the endowment has supported three professorships.