Dr. Meagan ElinskiDr. Meagan Elinski

Dr. Meagan Elinski, assistant professor of chemistry at Hope College, is one of only 19 early-career scientists in astronomy, chemistry or physics nationwide to receive a 2024 Cottrell Scholar Award from Research Corporation for Science Advancement.

Cottrell Scholars are chosen through a rigorous peer-review process of applications from public and private research universities and primarily undergraduate institutions across the United States and Canada. The award includes $120,000 in support of the recipient’s research, which Elinski will use for her investigation of “Chemical-Mechanical Control Over Nanoparticle-Hydrogel Sliding Interfaces.”

“Surface forces, intermolecular interactions, and chemical reactions influence the sliding behavior of surfaces in relative motion,” she said.  “Nanoparticles are promising candidates as direct therapeutics and delivery systems for osteoarthritis treatments, primarily via intraarticular injection, but little is known about the impact on sliding behavior for a soft material surface like cartilage that would be encountered in a joint.”

Elinski conducts her research collaboratively with Hope students, who work with her part-time during the school year and full-time for a 10-week program each summer.  The research that they pursue through the new grant will build on a growing research theme. In recent work, she noted, “We found that when comparing surface chemistry, concentration, and degree of aggregation, both nanoparticle surface chemistry and nanoparticle solution viscosity modulate the frictional properties of a cartilage-mimicking hydrogel.”

Elinski has been a member of the Hope faculty since 2020.  Prior to coming to Hope, she was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania for two years.  A 2013 graduate of Hope, where she majored in chemistry, she completed her doctorate in chemistry at Texas A&M University in 2018.

In the spring of 2020, the Hope College Alumni Association presented her with a “10 Under 10 Award,” which honors alumni who graduated within the past decade and are emerging leaders in their fields.  She also received a Postdoctoral Academic Diversity Fellowship from the University of Pennsylvania in 2018, and a Texas A&M U.S. Senator Phil Gramm Doctoral Fellowship for Research and Teaching in 2017.

Research Corporation for Science Advancement, America's first foundation dedicated wholly to science, is a private foundation that funds basic research in the physical sciences (astronomy, chemistry, physics, and related fields) at colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. It creates and supports inclusive communities of early career researchers through two core programs -- the Cottrell Scholar Program and Scialog -- as well as its newly launched RCSA Fellows initiative.

The Cottrell Scholar Awards are named for educator, inventor, and science visionary Frederick Gardner Cottrell, who founded Research Corporation for Science Advancement in 1912.  Since the first class in 1994, the Cottrell Scholar community has become an active, multigenerational and multidisciplinary force comprising more than 500 awardees from a wide variety of colleges and universities across the United States and Canada. The previous recipients include two current members of the Hope chemistry faculty: Dr. Jason Gillmore, selected in 2006; and Dr. Jeffrey Johnson, selected in 2008.

As their careers advance, Cottrell Scholars become eligible to compete for several additional levels of funding through the Cottrell Plus Awards. Scholars meet each July at the annual Cottrell Scholar Conference to network, exchange ideas, and develop collaborative projects with potential national impact. This year’s event is scheduled for July 17-19 in Tucson, Arizona.