Jennifer Schaefer

Assistant Professor, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

CAREER: Fundamental Materials Studies on Fast Ion Diffusion in Model Side-chain Ionomers


The objectives of this CAREER project are to design, prepare, and characterize model polymers to elucidate fundamental understanding of the parameters governing motion of ions in specialized plastics materials. At the same time, it will integrate educational and outreach programs to excite and encourage future STEM (i.e., science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) researchers, recruit female undergraduate students to STEM careers, and support and retain female STEM researchers at the graduate and postdoctoral levels. Professor Schaefer aims to synthesize novel polymers that will allow for specific hypotheses regarding ion transport to be probed by in-depth material characterization. The project integrates skills and knowledge of chemistry, materials science, and chemical engineering to interrogate fundamental structure-property relationships. The fundamental scientific knowledge generated by this work could enable advances in new materials for applications including safer high energy-density rechargeable batteries. Additionally, the number, diversity, and training of the next generation of researchers in the chemical sciences and engineering will be addressed by the development and dissemination of a polymers module at high schools, laboratory research experiences for high school students and teachers, targeted recruitment of female undergraduate students to research opportunities, and mentoring of a graduate and postdoctoral women’s group.

In this project, a tunable model system will be leveraged to enable understanding of the fundamentals of ion diffusion in ionomer ionic aggregates, a potential mechanism for facilitating fast single-ion transport in solvent-free polymers. This research aims to propel understanding of this ion diffusion mechanism through targeted experimental studies that span novel polymer synthesis and in-depth material characterization. Specifically, model ionomers with tunable terminal ionic groups that self-assemble into defined phases will be synthesized and further leveraged to interrogate the parameters affecting the rate of counter-ion transport in ionic domains. Molecular-level through mesoscale structural characterization as well as characterization of counter-ion and matrix dynamics will enable fundamental structure-property correlations to be made. The research is integrated with an educational plan by involvement of undergraduate researchers, including female undergraduates from St. Mary's College, in the research activities and dissemination of a "Polymers in Our World" module to high schools.


The Schaefer research group studies ion transport and interfacial reactions with relevance to energy storage devices. The primary focus is liquid and polymer electrolytes to advance high energy density rechargeable batteries.

Professor Schaefer joined Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering as an assistant professor in 2015 after serving as an NRC postdoctoral fellow at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. She received her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University in 2014.