University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

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Lee Penn promoted to professor

The University Board of Regents has approved the promotion of Lee Penn to professor. She joined the Department of Chemistry faculty as an assistant professor in 2001 and was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 2008. She earned bachelor degrees in chemistry from Beloit College in 1992, and her master’s degree in 1994 and doctorate in 1998 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For a year, she was an adjunct faculty member at Towson University, and then was a post-doctoral researcher at Johns Hopkins University for a year before coming to the University of Minnesota.

Penn has received prestigious awards for her teaching, mentoring and research, including the 2015 Horace T. Morse-University of Minnesota Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education, and the George W. Taylor/CSE Alumni Society Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2009. She was a McKnight Presidential Fellow from 2008-2011, and has been an Institute on the Environment Fellow since 2011. She also received a George Taylor Career Development Award from the College of Science and Engineering, and a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation.

Penn is an advocate for diversity and has a personal and professional commitment to improving the diversity of people studying and working in science, technology, engineering and math fields. She is the founding chair of the Chemistry Department’s Diversity Committee and co-leads trainings focused on the how scientists and engineers can serve as allies to diverse students, with particular focus on LGBTQ identified students.

Her research focuses on four major areas, including:

  • Elucidating the fundamental aggregation and growth mechanisms - especially nonclassical crystal growth mechanisms - of inorganic nanoparticles;
  • Characterizing the chemical reactivity of natural and synthetic nanoparticles;
  • Characterizing the magnetic behavior of iron oxide nanoparticles (e.g., natural and synthetic ferrihydrite, goethite, and magnetite); and
  • Designing and implementing effective curriculum introducing atomic-structure imaging in a high-resolution transmission electron microscope as a means to strengthen and improve middle school students’ understanding of the atomic structure of solid materials.