Thomas R. Cundari, Regents Professor of chemistry, received the 2017 Eminent Faculty Award this fall for his dedication to excellence through research and education. As co-founder and director of UNT's Center for Advanced Scientific Computing and Modeling, he has helped the university earn recognition as an international leader in the field of computational modeling and simulation.
Most of Cundari's work focuses on organometallics and computational chemistry to transform petroleum hydrocarbons into useful everyday products. His former students have worked with PPG Industries to develop glasses that quickly adjust to light. They also continue to work with polyesters, styrene and other petroleum-based products to take them to the next level where they are made biodegradable or "green."
"We take hydrocarbons (gas and petroleum) and produce products to make sustainable, green, ecologically and economically sound plastics and gasoline," Cundari says. "A large part of what we do uses crude oil and natural gas. Another big challenge is creating useful products with plant-derived material, also known as bio-mass."
His team has managed 69 grants and contracts for federal, private and industrial donors, totaling more than $10 million.
Cundari, who has sponsored more than 30 Ph.D. candidates and worked with many postdoctoral and undergraduate scientists, says a big part of his satisfaction comes from watching the students transform into independent scientists.
"My goal is not to come up with new science, it's to come up with new scientists," he says.