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Bradley professor Luke Haverhals honored as ‘Researcher to Know’

Photo via Luke Haverhals.

Bradley chemistry/biochemistry professor Luke Haverhals was included in the Illinois Science & Technology Coalition (ISTC)’s fourth annual list of “Researchers to Know”.

Formally announced on Aug. 3 through a release by ISTC which was later redistributed by Bradley’s Office of Public Relations on Aug. 13, the coalition’s list serves to honor innovative and influential research occurring on Illinois campuses, with this year’s edition highlighting people from 10 higher-education institutions.

According to the ISTC release, criteria for selection included breakthrough research, development of new technologies, venture launches and pushes for social change.

“Each of the researchers chosen for the honor has demonstrated outstanding achievement in their research field,” ISTC director Matthew Bragg said in the coalition’s release.

Haverhals was named to the list for research done primarily in the fields of analytical and physical chemistry alongside material science. In an email interview, he detailed that the most rewarding aspects of research for him are learning never-before-discovered things and getting to be around and collaborate with intellectual people.

Haverhals stated that he was informed of ISTC’s honor through Bradley’s Turner Center for Entrepreneurship and the Mund-Lagowski Department, and was honored to receive the news.

“To me, it is a ‘symptom’ of being included and part of several great organizations – both Bradley University and Natural Fiber Welding,” Haverhals said.

With him having an academic background in science, receiving a B.A. and Ph.D. in chemistry, Haverhals said that the field has been a lifelong interest of his that he was always curious about.

“I was fortunate to grow up on a small family farm in Iowa with parents who nurtured and encouraged a deep respect for and interest in the natural world,” Haverhals said. “When I grew up, my parents gave me freedom to pursue my interests including the basic science and technologies of ‘where things come from’ and ‘where things go to.’ That spark of curiosity has carried my career to this point.”

One important outlet of Haverhals’ work is his role as the leader of a research group that covers a variety of jobs to innovate chemistry techniques, from applying laser-based instrumentation to collaborating with partner organizations in academia and the U.S. government. The group receives extensive funding, research opportunities and resources from other organizations including the U.S. Army Research Office and the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research, as well as Bradley University.

Haverhals also does notable work in Natural Fiber Welding (NFW), a Peoria-based company which he co-founded in 2015 that strives to offer an alternative to the unsustainable practices within the petroleum industry, using plants and natural fibers to make renewable, high-functioning goods that outperform synthetic goods containing plastics.

According to ISTC’s official page regarding the list, NFW has raised over $20 million in funding and has received investments from brands, including Ralph Lauren.

Haverhals has ambitious plans for his future, primarily through the goals of NFW.

“[I want to] bring truly comprehensive sustainability and circularity to the materials and product world,” Haverhals said. “[I want to] be a key contributor to enabling people everywhere to live better and with less conflict over finite fossil resources. A key way humanity will do this going forward is through what Natural Fiber Welding is scaling in Peoria and globally.”

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