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Knappenberger named chemistry department head

11 March 2024
Kenneth Knappenberger Jr.

Kenneth Knappenberger Jr., professor of chemistry, has been named the new head of the Penn State Department of Chemistry, effective July 1, 2024. Knappenberger succeeds Phil Bevilacqua, who has served as the head of the department since 2018.         
“Ken’s scientific stature, familiarity with the department, and thoughtful leadership approach position him for success in this role,” said Tracy Langkilde, Verne M. Willaman Dean of the Eberly College of Science. “His passion for the department and its future are evident. I am excited to work with him to lead chemistry to an even higher level of excellence!”
Knappenberger’s research is focused on understanding structural photonics — which describes the structure-function interplay of light-matter interactions — with specific areas of focus including plasmonic nanostructures, quantum photonics, super-resolution optical microscopy, and ultrafast multidimensional spectroscopy. 
When he was a graduate student in chemistry at Penn State, Knappenberger was named a Dalalian Research Fellow. Since then he was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2020 and received the Coblentz Award from the Coblentz Society in 2016. In 2015, Knappenberger received the Developing Scholar Award, from Florida State University, and the Joseph Wang Award in Nanoscience. He received Young Investigator Awards from the U.S. Department of Defense Air Force Office of Scientific Research in 2010 and from the Inter-American Photochemical Society in 2012, as well as the National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 2011. 
“I’m very honored to have been selected as head of the Penn State Department of Chemistry,” Knappenberger said. “The department has a long history of impactful research, teaching, and service. My colleagues, including faculty, students, postdocs, and staff, are truly world class. I’m looking forward to working with them and the larger Penn State community in this capacity, and I’m excited about what we’ll achieve in the future.”
Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State in 2017, Knappenberger was a member of the Florida State University faculty from 2008 to 2017. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2008, and he received his Ph.D. in chemistry from Penn State in 2005 and his bachelor’s degree from Lock Haven University in 2000.