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  1. null (Ed.)
    A recently launched National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) aims to enhance graduate education by integrating research and professional skill development within a diverse, inclusive and supportive academy. This contribution will describe three initial interventions within this NRT, namely, an onboarding and orientation event, a career exploration symposium, and a multidisciplinary introductory course. In addition, the assessment of each of these interventions – and the outcomes thereof – will be presented and discussed. Prior to the onboarding and orientation event, trainees received the event’s agenda and checklists summarizing pre- and post-event assignments. Pre-event assignments were designed to familiarize trainees with the NRT, the process of drafting an individual development plan (IDP), and the consent form required for traineeship evaluation purposes. During the event – held online due to COVID-19 – and following introductions, trainees were given the opportunity to ask questions stemming from the pre-event assignments. Subsequently, trainees were introduced to several tools (e.g., checklists as well as sample developmental network maps and mentoring contracts) to guide and track their development and progression through the traineeship. The event concluded with a discussion on topics that also constituted post-event assignments, including registering and preparing for both the career exploration symposium and the multidisciplinary introductory course. Survey data collected after the event indicated that trainees valued the opportunity to learn more about the NRT, ask questions, and meet faculty who expressed a commitment to student success. Shortly thereafter, trainees attended a career exploration symposium and moderated sessions featuring speakers representing careers of interest. Indeed, the symposium was purposely designed to expose trainees to a wide range of career pathways. In addition, practical career tools and skills for STEM professionals were discussed in several breakout sessions. Finally, the symposium ended with a panel discussion comprising four diverse and accomplished recent Ph.D. graduates, who discussed mental health and communication issues prior to answering questions asked by trainees. Trainee responses to a post-symposium survey were also positive as trainees reported the following: an increase in knowledge of career paths and hiring sectors, an appreciation for the diversity of the presenters and career paths, and the attainment of at least one new skill or strategy they felt would aid in their graduate school success. In their first semester in the NRT, trainees take an interdisciplinary course covering the high priority convergent research topic targeted by the traineeship. This course is co-taught by faculty of seven different departments and is composed of four units, each focused on a research question requiring extensive interdisciplinary collaboration to be answered. Teams of at least three core faculty with the cumulative expertise needed to answer each question co-teach each unit, emphasizing concepts that students must understand to address the question at hand. During this course, four multi-departmental interdisciplinary student teams are formed, each focusing on – and conducting a critical review of the literature in – one of the research questions. Indeed, emphasis is placed on providing students with the knowledge and tools to find, critically evaluate, summarize, and present literature on the topic. 
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  2. Abstract

    Fructose is a versatile precursor for food and chemicals. Currently, catalytic production of fructose is achieved by enzymatic isomerization of glucose from renewable lignocellulose. Although the catalyst, glucose isomerase, is selective, it is not stable. Here, aluminum‐containing metal‐organic frameworks (Al‐MOFs) are shown to be active, selective, stable, and reusable for glucose isomerization in ethanol. Al‐MOFs achieved 64% fructose selectivity with 82% glucose conversion at 120 °C, superior performance compared with most other solid catalysts. The amino groups in Al‐MOFs enhance Lewis acid strength, which is responsible for the high fructose selectivity at high glucose conversion. Moreover, the Al‐MOF catalyst is stable and reusable at least four times without losing either activity or fructose selectivity. These findings illustrate compelling opportunities for Al‐MOFs in fructose production and other organic reactions, such as fructose conversion to 5‐hydroxymethylfurfural and levulinic acid.

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  3. Abstract

    Lactic acid is a renewable and versatile chemical for food, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and other chemicals. Lactic acid can be produced from biomass‐derived dihydroxyacetone. However, selective and recyclable water‐tolerant acid catalysts need to be developed for the specific production of lactic acid. Here we show that the MIL‐101(Al)−NH2metal‐organic framework (MOF) is a water‐tolerant and selective solid Lewis acid catalyst for dihydroxyacetone isomerization to lactic acid. The Lewis acidic MIL‐101(Al)−NH2catalyst promoted a high lactic acid selectivity of 91 % at 96 % dihydroxyacetone conversion at 120 °C in water. The reaction proceeded by temperature and/or MIL‐101(Al)−NH2MOFs mediated dihydroxyacetone dehydration to pyruvaldehyde. Subsequently, the MIL‐101(Al)−NH2facilitated rehydration of the pyruvaldehyde to lactic acid. The Lewis acidic MIL‐101(Al)−NH2catalyst was stable and reusable four times without any decrease in catalytic performance.

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  4. Gold nanoparticles supported on lithium–aluminum layered double hydroxide function as a heterogeneous catalyst for oxidative depolymerization of lignin to low molecular weight aromatics under mild conditions.

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