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Chemist and Astronomer Selected as 2018 Cottrell Scholars

Chemist and Astronomer Selected as 2018 Cottrell Scholars
Sean Roberts and Stella Offner have been named 2018 Cottrell Scholars.

Two UT Austin College of Natural Sciences faculty members have been named 2018 Cottrell Scholars by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA). This marks only the third time that a university has received two awards in the same year since they were first given in 1994.

Stella Offner and Sean Roberts are among the 24 Cottrell Scholars selected this year from among the nation's top early career academic scientists. The award is given to early career scientists and comes with a $100,000 research grant, as well as an invitation to a multidisciplinary conference aimed at fostering leaders in the academic community.

"It is a somewhat rare event to have two scholars named from the same university in a single year," said RCSA President and CEO Daniel Linzer. "This speaks very highly to the quality of the research and science education going on at UT Austin."

The RCSA names Cottrell Scholars with the aim of advancing fundamental research in the physical sciences. Scholars are selected through a peer-review process based on their innovative research proposals and education programs.

Offner, an assistant professor in the Department of Astronomy, will use her research grant to model how stars are born through computer simulations. The simulations will explore how this process might change in environments different from those typical to our Milky Way galaxy now and where our Sun formed.

Through her project, titled "Unveiling the Life Cycle of Stars through Cosmic Time and Enhancing Inclusivity in Astronomy," Offner will also create a mentoring program for undergraduate majors and develop a new sophomore level astronomy class based on exploring and analyzing publicly available astronomy data.

Roberts, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, will apply his grant to develop new coatings for solar cells that can improve their performance by reducing energy lost as heat. To accomplish this, his group will develop new microscopy approaches that can follow how the coatings store energy once they absorb light.

Roberts' proposal, titled "Tracking Singlet Fission with Ultrafast Time-resolved Microscopy and A Focused Research Experience for Community College Students", will also provide community college students the opportunity to engage in chemical research. He will work with Austin Community College to develop a new class modeled on the Freshman Research Initiative, in which students will work together to synthesize a library of different organic compounds that have applications as light-absorbing materials for solar cells and photocatalysts.

Roberts and Offner bring to six the number of UT Austin professors who have been named Cottrell Scholars. They join Andrew Ellington (1995), Michael Krische (2002), Michael Rose (2017) and David Vanden Bout (2000).
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Tuesday, 31 January 2023

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