Chemist earns prestigious Florida Award from American Chemical Society

Joseph B. Schlenoff, Florida State's Leo Mandelkern Professor of Polymer Science

A Florida State University polymer chemist known for creating coatings with highly adaptable chemical properties and a range of practical uses has been honored as one of the top scholars in chemistry in the southeastern United States.

Joseph B. Schlenoff, the Leo Mandelkern Professor of Polymer Science and a Distinguished Research Professor at Florida State, has received the 2013 Florida Award of the Florida Local Section of the American Chemical Society. The award recognizes leadership and contributions toward the advancement of the profession of chemistry. Schlenoff was cited for his broad scholarly activity, including his 30 patents and more than 130 papers, as well as his service within Florida State and beyond.

“I am humbled and delighted to be honored in this way by my peers in the state,” Schlenoff said. “I believe our state is a powerhouse of great science, and chemistry in particular. I have the greatest respect for the accomplishments of the previous Florida Award winners, many from Florida State, and I hope to live up to their level of achievement.”

Schlenoff’s work deals with making films and coatings from water-soluble polymers. These polymers are created from long strings of simple chemical units, bearing either a negative or positive charge, which repeat numerous times. Known as polyelectrolytes, they are widely used in industry and in personal care products such as shampoos. Many scientists have used these films for coatings.

Schlenoff has been at the forefront of the field, using multiple layers of films to prepare biocompatible surfaces for controlling cell adhesion and proliferation. These surfaces may help make implants such as catheters and stents last longer with fewer side effects. He also focuses on the fundamental properties of multilayered polyelectrolyte films, helping explain their membrane properties, mechanical strength and response to ions.

By choosing the right polymer repeat unit, Schlenoff has been able to make a variety of coatings having important properties in a wide variety of areas, according to Tim Logan, professor and chair of Florida State’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

For instance, the multilayer coatings are used to protect against corrosion. In addition, Schlenoff is working to develop coatings that allow flexible tubes to be used for blood vessel reconstruction. These devices would better support the growth of blood vessels and allow surgeons to build blood vessels to insert wherever they needed them. What’s more, because of their chemical properties, these devices could be impregnated with growth- and repair-promoting biomolecules and reagents.

“Joe’s research is readily patentable,” Logan said. “In fact, 12 of his 30 patents have been issued in the past 5 years alone, and he has licensed technology to a successful nanotech startup company in Tallahassee.”

In addition to his credentials as a scientist, Logan praised Schlenoff as an outstanding administrator. Schlenoff served as chair of the department from 2007 to 2011 and, during that period, oversaw the construction of the university’s new chemistry building.

“He also is an outstanding teacher at the undergraduate and graduate levels,” Logan said.

Schlenoff co-founded Florida State’s groundbreaking ChemPreneur program with James Dever, a research associate and the entrepreneur in residence at The Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship in the College of Business. The program pairs chemistry and biochemistry graduate students with business students to teach them how to market and develop the intellectual property associated with their research.

“It has been an honor for me to be able to work with Joe Schlenoff, an outstanding chemist,” Dever said. “The ChemPreneur program was the first program that contributed toFlorida State PresidentEric J. Barron’s call for us to create an entrepreneurialuniversity. Joe was the consummate professional when it came to educating our students from the College of Business in the field of chemistry, and our students were the big winners due to his hard work and dedication to our program.”

“This innovative program helped lay the groundwork for other entrepreneurial activities across the Florida State campus and is a model for other chemistry departments across the nation,” Logan said.

After a brief stint at Polaroid Corporation in Cambridge, Mass., Schlenoff earned a doctorate at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 1987. He joined Florida State’s faculty in 1988. He held the Gutenberg Chair at the University of Strasbourg in 2011.

The Florida Award was established in 1952 and is given each year at the annual scientific meeting of the Florida Local Section of the American Chemical Society. To be considered for the award, a nominee must live in the Southeast and must have made outstanding contributions to teaching, research, publications or service in advancing the chemistry profession. To view the complete list of ACS Florida Award recipients, visit