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Press Release

Cal Poly Chemistry Professor Earns Prestigious $120,000 Grant Award for Education, Research-Based Initiatives

A portrait of Cal Poly chemistry Professor Leslie Hamachi

Contact: Nick Wilson 


SAN LUIS OBISPO — A Cal Poly assistant professor of chemistry has received a prestigious award, joining a select group of 19 faculty members from the U.S. and Canada. Leslie Hamachi was chosen among early-career faculty in chemistry, physics and astronomy as a recipient of a 2024 Cottrell Scholar Award.

Each Cottrell awardee receives $120,000 for use toward research and education-based initiatives in their respective programs. The grant award, covering three years of funding, is provided to early-career tenure-track faculty members who started their job appointment anytime in calendar year 2020.

A portrait of Cal Poly chemistry Professor Leslie Hamachi
Leslie Hamachi is a Cal Poly assistant professor in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department and a 2024 Cottrell Scholar Award honoree.

Photo by Alexis Kovacevic

“These awardees stand out not just for their excellence in teaching and research but for their potential,” said Daniel Linzer, president and CEO of the Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement, which coordinates the Cottrell Award. “The advancement of both science and society depend on the fresh ideas and the dedication to student learning that we see in Cottrell Scholars, including the class of 2024.”

Hamachi teaches in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department. In addition to her instructional duties, her faculty role includes working with many Cal Poly students on research-based projects supported by the Frost Fund in the Bailey College of Science and Mathematics.

She leads a team of undergraduates that’s working with Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing Lab to develop polymer and macromolecule-themed activities. Polymers are large molecules made by chemically linking building blocks of bonded atoms.

Through the Learn by Doing Lab, students from K-12 local schools visit the university campus to experience standards-based, real-world demonstrations and activities. Her team will conduct lab activities related to polymer recycling and sustainability.

“This is quite an honor, and I’m really excited to implement these learning concepts and help grow knowledge in polymer-based education,” Hamachi said. “Cal Poly undergrads will have a very large impact with guided educational objectives. We’ll be able to share fundamental scientific knowledge through outreach that will be new to Cal Poly and local students.”

Additionally, Hamachi’s Cottrell Award research proposal involves the university’s quarter-to-semester curriculum changes. Cal Poly’s first semester will be fall 2026 based on a 2021 directive from the California State University Office of the Chancellor. Hamachi’s work includes developing a new course, Foundations of Macromolecular Chemistry, in the chemistry curriculum, with assessment of current student knowledge.

Cottrell Scholars meet each year at an annual Cottrell Scholar Conference to network, exchange ideas and develop collaborative projects with potential national impact.