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Energy Frontier Research Center

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Frontiers in
Energy Research
July 2014

Golden Future for Early Career Scientists

Featured Energy Frontier Research Center members recognized for outstanding contributions to their field

James Gallagher

Wei Liu receiving the 2013 Extraordinary Potential Prize for Outstanding Chinese Students Studying Abroad (top). Emily Kosten receiving the MRS Graduate Student Gold Awards at 2014 MRS Spring Meeting (middle). Christopher Lee received the 2014 ACS Cellulose and Renewable Materials Division graduate student award (bottom).

Future scientific research will be led by early career scientists being trained today in laboratories across the country. Here, we highlight three of the many awards given in the last 18 months that showcase the exceptional research and amazing potential of our early career Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC) members.

Wei Liu, a member of the Center for Catalytic Hydrocarbon Functionalization and former graduate student in John Groves’ group at Princeton University, has received the 2013 Extraordinary Potential Prize for Outstanding Chinese Students Studying Abroad from the China Scholarship Council. Liu was one of only six students worldwide who received this prize, and he was selected based on a rigorous evaluation of his academic and research accomplishments.

The award recognizes Liu's research on catalysts for transformation of carbon-hydrogen bonds into carbon-fluorine or carbon-chlorine bonds. The activation of these common but usually relatively inert groups is important in both medical chemistry and energy research. Liu noted, "The experience at an EFRC has been really helpful. Collaboration contributed a lot to the development of the carbon-hydrogen to carbon-fluorine reaction."

In a different sphere of energy research, Emily Kosten, a member of the Light-Material Interactions in Energy Conversion EFRC, won the Graduate Student Gold Award, granted by the Materials Research Society (MRS) at their Spring 2014 meeting. Working in Harry Atwater’s lab at Caltech, Kosten was recognized for her work on optical designs for improved solar cell performance.

"In highly efficient solar cells, light emitted from the cell limits the efficiency," said Kosten. "By reducing the emitted light with external optics, efficiency may be improved."

The MRS award honors graduate students whose academic achievements and research show a high level of excellence, with promise for significant future achievement in materials research and education.

The 2014 American Chemical Society (ACS) Cellulose and Renewable Materials Division graduate student award was granted to Christopher Lee, a member of the Center for Lignocellulose Structure and Formation. Lee is working in the labs of Seong Kim and Daniel Cosgrove at Penn State, and his work is concerned with the understanding of cellulose crystal structure in the native state using sum-frequency generation spectroscopy.

“Plants synthesize cellulose crystals into their cell walls for structural support during growth,” said Lee. “My research is focused on using laser spectroscopy to probe the cellulose crystal structures and crystallite organizations within intact plant specimens.” The award recognizes excellence in research, and as part of the prize, Lee delivered a 30-minute lecture on his research at the ACS Spring meeting in Dallas.

Congratulations to these three early career scientists and to all other EFRC-funded individuals who have been recognized for their exciting research.

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Disclaimer: The opinions in this newsletter are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views or position of the Department of Energy.