McGee Lecture Series

The Henry A. McGee Lectures in Chemical and Life Science Engineering honor the founding dean of VCU’s College of Engineering, Henry A. McGee, who is also a distinguished Emeritus professor in the Chemical and Life Science Engineering department. The lecture series is made possible by the Betty Rose and Henry McGee Endowment for Chemical Engineering. Learn more about Dr. Henry McGee.

Event Details

Date: Wednesday, March 27, 2024
2:30–3:30 p.m.
Location: Engineering West Hall, Room 101

Lecture title

Innovating across the life cycle of macromolecular materials


Professor LaShanda T. J. Korley is a Distinguished Professor of Engineering in the Departments of Materials Science & Engineering and Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Delaware (UD). Korley is the Director of the Energy Frontier Research Center – Center for Plastics Innovation funded by the Department of Energy and also the Co-Director of the Materials Research Science and Center – UD Center for Hybrid, Active, and Responsive Materials funded by the National Science Foundation. She also is an Associate Editor for ACS Macro Letters. Her innovative research program utilizes a bioeconomy framework or the nexus of biologically-inspired and sustainable principles for the molecular design, manufacture, and valorization of functional polymeric systems, including thermoplastics, networks, composites, and gels. Korley has received several distinguished honors, including 2023 (ACS Fellow, AIChE Fellow, Fellow of RSC, ACS POLY Fellow); 2022 (APS Fellow, ACS PMSE Fellow); 2021 Chemical and Engineering News Black Trailblazer); 2020 AIMBE Fellow, 2012 Kavli Fellow. In 2023, LaShanda was selected to the 2023 U.S. Science Envoy Cohort by the U.S. State Department. She received a B.S. in both Chemistry & Engineering from Clark Atlanta University as well as a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Korley completed her doctoral studies at MIT in Chemical Engineering and the Program in Polymer Science and Technology, and she was the recipient of the Provost’s Academic Diversity Postdoctoral Fellowship at Cornell University. She served as a member of the US National Committee for IUPAC and as a Reviewer for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine's draft report, "Frontiers of Materials Research: A Decadal Survey (2019).


Natural materials, such as spider silk, wood, and seed pods, are excellent models for the engineering of polymeric materials that respond to complex and interacting environments, that exhibit controlled and modular mechanical behavior under low energy conditions and with a limited set of chemical building blocks, and that are designed for life cycle management. Within this context, I will discuss the manufacture of polymer-peptide hybrids with nanoscale features and modularity reminiscent of spider silk for applications as responsive gels and shape memory materials. Inspired by the mechanism of seed dispersal in pinecones, I also will demonstrate bilayer actuation with controlled shape and response time with potential application in soft robotics. Motivated by the critical need to transition from a dependence on petroleum feedstocks, I also will highlight the utilization of biomass building blocks with diverse functionality in the development of performance-advantaged macromolecular materials with exceptional mechanical function and thermal properties. To tackle the global problem of plastics pollution, I also will overview deconstruction and upgrading strategies to re-imagine plastics waste as a valuable feedstock. Collectively, these vignettes offer a framework that provides insight into the interplay of macromolecular design, molecular engineering, and robust manufacturing.

Past Speakers

  • 2023–Carol K. Hall, Ph.D.
  • 2022–Piero Baglioni, Ph.D.
  • 2021–Dong-Pyo Kim, Ph.D.
  • 2020–Monty Alger, Ph.D.
  • 2019–Klavs Jensen, Ph.D.
  • 2018–Babatunde Ogunnaike, Ph.D.
  • 2017–Robert Prud'homme, Ph.D.
  • 2016–Gregory Stephanopoulos, Ph.D.
  • 2015–Vicki L. Colvin, Ph.D.
  • 2014–Benny D. Freeman, Ph.D.
  • 2013–Mark E. Davis, Ph.D.
  • 2012–Jay Keasling, Ph.D.
  • 2011–Joseph M. DeSimone, Ph.D.
  • 2010–Charles Liotta, Ph.D.