Celebrating a Young Scientist

Chemistry Professor Wins 2018 Beckman Young Investigators Award
chemistry professor wins beckman young investigators award


Dr. Jean-Hubert Olivier, assistant pprofessor in the Chemistry Department, was honored with the prestigious 2018 Beckman Young Investigators Award. To date, Olivier is the first University of Miami faculty member to receive this esteemed recognition.

According to the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation website, the award “provides research support to the most promising young faculty members in the early stages of their academic careers in the chemical and life sciences, particularly to foster the invention of methods, instruments and materials that will open up new avenues of research in science.” 

Since 1990, the program has provided more than $98 million in grant funds to over 360 recipients.

Olivier, who earned his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Strasbourg in France, is one of 10 award winners – all young scientists – in the U.S. from institutions such as Columbia University, Stanford University, John Hopkins University and Louisiana State University, to name a few.

“The process to apply for the award is somewhat different than others,” said Olivier. “I had to write a letter of intent proposing my research, then submit a full proposal and undergo an interview process and presentation to a group of potential awardees and the review committee at the Foundation’s headquarters in California. The point of the Foundation is to fund cutting-edge research, so it was really thrilling that each of us proposed projects completely different from each other.”

The Foundation provides each award winner with a $600,000 grant over the course of four years to help fund their diverse projects, which span multiple disciplines in the sciences. The funds provided by the Beckman Foundation will allow Olivier to start an entirely new research effort at his lab in the Chemistry Department. 

“We are developing roadmaps to create neoteric material composition with which we can further engineer tactile sensors for electronic skin, which is a small device that will convert mechanical pressure into electricity,” said Olivier. “What we don’t realize, for example, is that our skin is converting mechanical pressure into electrical signals all the time, like when you hold a pen to write. This type of research has huge implications for electronic skin which can be used in soft robotics. Furthermore, molecular tools developed through this award will tackle long-standing challenges in physical organic chemistry and supramolecular chemistry.

“The fundamental part of my project is to develop these materials, while the applied part is to develop the tactile sensors,” adds Olivier. “This award will help me purchase new equipment as well as hire a post-doctoral fellow and fund graduate students to assist me in the lab. The Foundation has provided me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that not only will truly transform my professional career but also bolster the pioneering of technology that currently does not exist. It is such an exciting time.”  




May 31, 2018