Mara Kuenen, a Ph.D. student in assistant professor Rachel Letteri’s polymer biomaterials lab, designs materials with controlled lifetimes to address a range of challenges in medicine and engineering.


Chemical engineering Ph.D. student Mara Kuenen’s research has been getting noticed lately. Kuenen, a member of assistant professor Rachel Letteri’s lab, won a best poster award at the American Chemical Society’s ACS Spring 2022 meeting in San Diego. Competing in the society’s Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering division, Kuenen presented her work on degradable poly(amino ester)s.

Kuenen’s research focuses on designing materials with controlled lifetimes to address challenges such as plastic waste pollution and drug delivery. Her work includes investigating new uses for poly(amino ester)s – polymers that carry inherent traits such as pH-responsiveness and degradability – to expand the functional areas in which the materials can be applied.

Kuenen also earned a travel scholarship to attend a short course on sustainable polymers held by the Division of Polymer Physics of the American Physical Society.

The course, Sustainable Polymers: Physics of New Materials, Design for Sustainability and End-of-Life, addressed the effects of polymer production on the environment and presented concepts to promote sustainable practices.