Ashley Jones

Justin Walensky, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry, recently earned the Humboldt Research Fellowship for Experienced Researchers. Each year Germany’s Humboldt Foundation invites a select number of internationally renowned academics to collaborate on long-term research projects with specialist colleagues in Germany in an effort to further promote international scientific collaboration.

Fellowship winners must be nominated by a German colleague. Together they submit a research proposal for consideration. Accepted proposals are then carried out by the winner and the nominator.

“It’s a huge honor, I wasn’t expecting it honestly,” Walensky said. “It means a lot that the reviewers of the proposal we submitted were supportive. I’m humbled.”

Professor Viktoria Gessner, the Chair of Inorganic Chemistry II at Ruhr University Bochum in Bochum, Germany, nominated Walensky. They met when she gave a talk at Mizzou in early February 2020.

Once there, Walensky’s research will involve making new metal complexes and studying their properties. He and Gessner will combine their expertise of synthetic chemistry to study ligands, in particular carbon-based ligands, which Gessner’s laboratory designed.

Walensky is an actinide chemist which means he works with the elements at the bottom of the periodic table. Those are all radioactive elements that are important to the nuclear fuel cycle. He enjoys synthesizing new compounds of the actinides and studying their properties.

“There’s only a handful of labs in the world that do the kind of chemistry that I do,” Walensky said. “It’s a unique specialty.”

Gessner does similar chemistry research, but with elements found on different areas of the periodic table.

Walensky will spend the summers of 2022, 2023, and 2024 in Germany working with Gessner on their proposed research and giving presentations throughout Germany. He was originally set to travel in the summer of 2021, but the dates were changed due to Covid-related travel restrictions.