2022 Foundation Professor Ana de Bettencourt-Das

Coming from Syracuse University in 2007, Ana de Bettencourt-Dias was excited for the opportunities joining the Department of Chemistry as an associate professor would bring to her research.

Here at the University of Nevada, Reno, she would be closer to the Mountain Pass Mine — the only mine in the western world producing the rare earth elements she studies. She would also have the opportunity to acquire and use sophisticated equipment that has not only taken her research to the next level but encouraged collaboration with other experts all over the world.

While not well known, the f elements de Bettencourt-Dias studies are abundant in our daily lives. “The f elements, found at the bottom of the periodic table, have the ability to emit light and are really ubiquitous in our daily lives — from cellphones to automobiles,” she explained.

De Bettencourt-Dias is interested in studying their light emission for more energy-efficient lighting but admits this is really just the beginning of the impact these elements and the University’s research can have.

“The opportunities that I’ve had here at the University and also the donor funds that we have received for our research have enabled us to move beyond just light-emitting materials. We have gotten into the field of cellular imaging which helps unravel cellular processes and learn more about metabolism and diseases. In time, the insights we’ve gained from our work on cytotoxic materials and photodynamic therapies may lead to more effective cancer therapies.”

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