Home Supporting structure PhD students first in the history of the NAU to receive prestigious DOE awards – The NAU Review

PhD students first in the history of the NAU to receive prestigious DOE awards – The NAU Review


Graduate students Maria bolar and Megan Foley are the first at Northern Arizona University to receive US Department of Energy (DOE) awards Office of Science Graduate Student Research Program (SCGSR). Only 65 graduate students from across the country were recognized this year. Through world-class training and access to state-of-the-art facilities and resources at DOE national laboratories, the program prepares graduate students for jobs of critical importance to the department’s mission and guarantees the country’s position at the forefront of discovery and innovation. .

The aim of the SCGSR is to prepare graduate students for STEM careers of critical importance to the mission of the Office of Science by providing research opportunities through extended residency in DOE National Laboratories. The program provides funding for students to spend three to 12 months on-site at a national DOE laboratory performing postgraduate thesis research in a priority research area, in collaboration with a DOE scientist. The projects they are working on should advance each student’s doctoral thesis while providing access to the expertise, resources, and capabilities available in DOE laboratories.

“The DOE Office of Science provides the scientific basis for solutions to some of our country’s most complex challenges, and now more than ever, we must invest in a diverse and talented pipeline of scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs who can help us build a better future, ”said Harriet Kung, deputy director of science programs at the Science Bureau. “These exceptional students will help us tackle critical research in our labs, as this experience helps them launch successful and rewarding careers.”

Bolar to study fundamental electrochemistry for chemical and materials sciences at Oak Ridge National

Maria bolar


Work on it PhD in Applied Physics and Materials Science (APMS), Bolar conducted research with Professor NAU Cindy browder and his laboratory group in the Department of chemistry and biochemistry, studying the physical properties of polymer electrolytes for use in energy storage devices such as supercapacitors. “Using organic chemistry, we have the ability to tune these electrolytes, and we’ve synthesized a variety of different polymer precursors using several different polymerization methods,” Bolar said. “As we modify these molecules, it is important to keep in mind how these changes affect the dynamics of polymers and the movements of ions.”

Bolar’s DOE award of $ 12,000 will allow him to work with senior scientist Gabriel Veith at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee for four months.

At ORNL, she will use quasi-elastic neutron scattering, among other neutron-based techniques, to fully characterize these different molecular mechanisms. NAU offers access to a range of electron microscopy instruments; However, Bolar said these instruments fail to distinguish the smaller atoms that make up the majority of electrolytes, which his team is most keen to understand. Explanations of polymer dynamics and ion diffusion will help explain the exciting thermal, electrochemical and mechanical trends they are now seeing as they alter the structure of polymer electrolytes.

“I am extremely excited for this incredible opportunity,” said Bolar. “I’m not sure what I’m looking forward to: the hectic environment of a national laboratory, or finally having a molecular understanding of the polymers with which I have been working for several years. I am proud to represent the school that serves as both the Alma Mater and the current graduate school, as well as the growing applied physics and materials science community within the NAU.

Teachers who have helped mentor Bolar include Gabriel Mountain, Jennifer martinez, Gerrick Lindberg, Constantin Ciocanel and Browder, who is the principal investigator of the project Bolar worked on.

“I am very fortunate to have such a knowledgeable team of professionals who constantly support me and challenge me to be the best growing scientist I can be.”

Browder said: “It has been a pleasure and an honor to work with Maria on her journey from undergraduate researcher to MS in chemistry student and now as an APMS PhD student. candidate. My lab has benefited tremendously from Maria’s skills and leadership over the years. Maria has always been resourceful, but she went above and beyond by gaining the ability to use neutron scattering techniques to examine our electrolytes at the atomic level. Maria’s prize project will benefit the band for years to come, and I couldn’t be more proud of its accomplishment.

Foley to study environmental microbiology at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Megan foley
Megan foley

Work on it doctorate in biological sciences, Foley studied with Professor Regents Bruce hungate in the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society, exploring research questions at the heart of his thesis, such as “How does life and death in the soil microbiome cause elemental transformations and contribute to key ecosystem processes?” and “How will all of this be affected by climate change?” “

Foley’s $ 18,000 DOE Fellowship will allow him to work for six months with senior scientist Jennifer Pett-Ridge at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California. His work will be part of Pett-Ridge’s research, which examines how the characteristics of microorganisms during their lifetimes and the composition of their post-death necromassia affect the duration of carbon sequestration in soils.

“Soils are the largest terrestrial reservoir of organic carbon on the planet, so these research questions are driven by their relevance to the carbon cycle and climate change. My project will use metatranscriptomics to analyze how the microbial expression of genes involved in carbohydrate depolymerization changes with drought, ”said Foley. “Overall, we want to understand how changing soil water dynamics, emerging properties of complex soil habitats, and expression of microbial traits interact to result in carbon transformations.”

“I am really looking forward to spending my time at LLNL. Dr. Pett-Ridge has been an integral part of all of my thesis work, so was my PhD. counselor, Dr Hungate, facilitated and encouraged. The two have collaborated for years and together bring a creative and quantitative angle to these research questions that really resonate with me and are at the heart of my thesis, and there is a huge synergy between the work done at NAU and LLNL that is permeated omics approaches. , stable isotope probing and other advanced techniques in quantitative microbial ecology, the heart of which lies in ecosystem ecology. I am delighted to be immersed in the work the LLNL team is doing and to see how this research is carried out in a large national laboratory funded by the DOE.

Hungate said: “Megan is amazing. Along with her cutting edge research, she teaches a course on intersectionality in science, bringing the national conversations on equity and access to the science classroom. to teach another too, all about extreme microbes. All this in addition to his research, which is advancing the field of microbial ecology. He is a multi-talented rising star, and I am so proud of she.

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Kerry Bennett | Office of the Vice-President, Research