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Physicist, Chemist Receive DOE Early Career Research Program Awards

Keji Lai, assistant professor of physics, and Katherine “Kallie” Willets, assistant professor of chemistry, have received Department of Energy (DOE) Early Career Research Program awards.

willets-lai-DOEChemist Kallie Willets and physicist Kaji Lai, recent recipients of DOE Early Career Research Program awards.

DOE Early Career awards support the development of research programs of outstanding scientists early in their careers and stimulate research careers in disciplines supported by the DOE Office of Science. The five-year, $750,000 research grants provide incentives for scientists to focus on research areas that are a high priority for the DOE and the U.S.

Lai and Willets join 59 awardees for fiscal year 2013.

The objective of Lai’s research is to explore the nanoscale electronic properties in advanced quantum materials, such as complex oxides and organic semiconductors. By combining a method that produces an unprecedented electric field effect (electrolytic gating) with scanning microwave impedance microscopy,this project aims to establish a new kind of useful imaging methodology and answer many pressing questions in technologically important materials.

Willets' research will focus on noble metal nanoparticles that interact with light through the excitation of plasmons. Her project will use noble metal nanoparticles as electrodes for electrochemical reactions to determine whether excitation of plasmons in these electrodes can affect the redox potentials and rate of electron transfer of molecules on the nanoparticle surface. The project will generate insight into how light can be used to lower energy barriers in electrochemical reactions, making them more energetically favorable.

Lee is the Director of Communications for the college. He holds a B.S. in Biology from UT and an M.S. in Entomology from UW-Madison. He lives in East Austin with his partner, their dog, and a garden full of plants and bugs.

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