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Profile of Houqian Li in his lab office
February 29, 2024

Houqian Li Wins Inaugural ACS Early Career Postdoctoral Faculty Bridge Grant

Written By: Claire Massey
With his eye on upcycling waste plastics into high-value chemicals, Houqian Li moves forward with his research with the support of a two-year grant in the form of salary for a postdoctoral fellow or associate to help launch and grow a research program.

Houqian Li, a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at UW-Madison, received the ACS Early Career Postdoctoral (ECP) Faculty Bridge Grant. A highly competitive grant—only six recipients were awarded the grant in 2023—Li stood out from the crowd with his dedication to to advancing sustainability-focused research in academia. With funding of up to $125,000, Li has the opportunity to hire a postdoctoral scholar for a two-year term, allowing him to pursue his project contributing to the upcycling of waste plastics.

Using a process called hydroformylation, Professor George Huber (left) and Houqian Li are able to recover the olefins in an oil made from waste plastic and transform them into high-value chemicals.

Out of all the plastics produced globally, less than 10% are recycled.1 If it isn’t recycled, these plastics are either incinerated, dumped in landfills or they otherwise drain into our environment. Li and the entire research team are focusing their research on transitioning from a linear model of recycling to a circular recycling economy.

One notable feature of this grant is its focus on integrating green chemistry principles into both research and teaching practices. Inspired by his research, Li aspires to offer a new course to educate students and explore green chemistry principles, plastic manufacturing and emerging plastic recycling technologies. He has also agreed to engage in green chemistry teaching workshops facilitated by the ACS Green Chemistry Institute. “I firmly believe that synergizing research and teaching has the power to ignite curiosity among students, kindling a thirst for deeper exploration,” said Li.

Please join us in congratulating Li on this remarkable achievement. We are excited to see what comes next for him!

To learn more, check out the College of Engineering’s news article or this article published in the Green Chemistry journal.

1Li, Houqian, et al. “Expanding Plastics Recycling Technologies: Chemical Aspects, Technology Status and Challenges.” Green Chemistry, The Royal Society of Chemistry, 14 Sept. 2022,

Photo credits: Joel Hallberg.