Deria gets nod for Early Career Faculty Excellence Award

This is one in a series featuring the university’s 2020 Faculty and Staff Excellence Award recipients, who are being recognized for outstanding teaching, significant scholarly and artistic contributions, and dedication to furthering the mission of the university.

Sometimes it’s easy to spot the promise a researcher shows early in a career. With Pravas Deria, the proof is in the publications.

Deria’s research activities have resulted in important discoveries that have appeared in nine high-impact journal publications, including four in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. His findings are providing the building blocks on which dozens of other researchers now stand to advance the study of chemistry, and have resulted in Deria winning a major grant aimed at establishing him as top researcher for years to come.

Excellence awards on tap

Southern Illinois University Carbondale is honoring Deria with its 2020 Early Career Faculty Excellence Award. The award recognizes faculty whom, within their first five years at SIU, demonstrate excellence in scholarship, teaching and other professional activities. 

“It is a great honor recognizing the scholastic contribution throughout my early career,” said Deria, an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, who joined SIU in 2015. “This award is highly motivating.”

Deria received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Calcutta University in India, his master’s degree in chemistry from the Indian Institute of Technology and his doctorate in chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania. His prior-to-SIU experience also includes postdoctoral fellowships at Northwestern University and Duke University.

Research is heavily cited

Deria’s teaching interests and specialties include general chemistry, inorganic chemistry, bio-inspired energy related compositions and photophysics-molecular spectroscopy. Lichang Wang, however, noted Deria’s ground-breaking research and work behind the scenes that has singled him out as an early-career achiever.

Deria’s research activities have resulted in “significant findings that impacted the research field tremendously,” said Wang, who nominated Deria for the award. In addition, Deria’s papers have attracted 3,300 citations, including more than 750 so far this year alone.

Wang, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry, also noted Deria has established active collaborations with other researchers at SIU and beyond. He also has developed or restructured inorganic chemistry courses at both the undergraduate and graduate level, and integrated his research activities into undergraduate educational experiences.

Received NSF CAREER grant

Perhaps nothing demonstrates Deria’s early promise as much as the National Science Foundation awarding him a prestigious, five-year, $642,000 CAREER grant from its Faculty Early Career Development Program. The program supports early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education, and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. Deria’s work will center on growing crystals made of both metal components and organic pigments to discover their varying light harvesting properties that potentially could convert the sun’s energy into stored chemical energy.

Deria said the most enjoyable aspect of his work is pursuing hypothesis-driven research.

“This enhances our understanding at the basic science level,” he said.

Thinking about the future is important, Deria said, and his plans include discovering new, functional compositions with molecular-level understanding, and then taking that knowledge into the classroom and laboratory to train future scholars.

“An Excellence Award not only motivates me but also recognizes the goal to prepare the next generation,” he said.

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