Beloved mentor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Sergiu Gorun has followed the same path as many students as the first in his family to go beyond high school. The founding director of the University's Center for Functional Materials (2012) and holder of numerous patents as well as publications in top scientific journals, Gorun has the drive to pursue ground-breaking research designed to make the world a better place. Perhaps that is because his journey to Seton Hall began as a young man in search of freedom during the dark days of the Cold War as a Romanian political refugee, before arriving in the U.S.
The Center's enhanced research program recognizes scientific directions in materials sciences, primarily new materials inspired by nature's findings. The group works to improve on molecules that exhibit catalytic activity to be applicable to industrial and other uses that benefit society. Publishing and patenting activity is aimed at areas ranging from cleaning the environment to medical applications to improve people's lives, health and safety.
Examples include the activation of oxygen from the air to improve the quality of hydrocarbon resources, including cleaner energy, harvesting energy from the Sun and translating it into reactive oxygen resources that will help clean the environment, and designing coatings that mitigate the effects of corrosion.
The Center connects research with funding agencies, provides enhanced STEM education, and works with federal and industrial partners. The Center is integrated with other centers within the Department of Chemistry and University and promotes collaborations and grant seeking with faculty in other departments.
"Integrating education and research is dear to my heart, i.e. learning by doing. Education through experience, by students participating, going into a lab and using their own hands and brains," he explains is key to developing future scientists and engineers.
The Center activities have resulted in training of students, who have been recognized with national presentations at American Chemical Society meetings, an award from NASA, and two awards funded by Novartis.
"What I would like to accomplish is an integrated educational research program that will enhance the stature of our University in the scientific community while providing opportunities for personal and professional development for students at all levels," says Gorun.
Gorun expresses his gratitude that this research has been recognized by funding agencies ranging from the National Science Foundation to the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force. At Seton Hall, his work is supported by several grants and contracts with direct funding support in excess of $500,000. Donations of equipment have also come from industry.
He has appreciated the opportunity to work with such talented colleagues as Alexander Fadeev, Yuri Kazakevich, Stephen Kelty, Cecilia Marzabadi, Wyatt Murphy, David Sabatino and Nicholas Snow as well as cooperating with top research universities in Belgium, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom.
"These collaborations further enhance the research environment for Seton Hall University students and connect our University with the international scientific community. Students are able to broaden their horizons, being exposed and working with different cultures, which is important if they want to work in industry," he said.
Last, but not least, Gorun says, his successes would not have been possible without the trust, strong support and contributions of the University administration.