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Graduate Students Awarded Prestigious DOE Grant
Kentucky Ag Connection - 05/20/2022

Three graduate students at the University of Kentucky have been selected for the Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) Program.

Austin Nelsen, Manh Tien Nguyen and Henry Pruett are among 80 graduate students nationwide to receive supplemental funds to conduct part of their thesis research at a host DOE laboratory in collaboration with a DOE scientist.

Through world-class training and access to state-of-the-art facilities, SCGSR prepares graduate students to enter jobs of critical importance to the DOE mission and secures the U.S. position at the forefront of discovery and innovation.

"For decades, the DOE has cultivated the expertise to meet the nation's greatest scientific challenges. Now more than ever, we need to invest in a diverse, talented pipeline of scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs who will be the future science and innovation leaders of this country," Geraldine Richmond, said under secretary of science and innovation at the DOE. "I'm thrilled these outstanding students will help us tackle critical research at our labs, and I know their futures are bright."

Austin Nelsen: Department of Physics & Astronomy, College of Arts and Sciences

- Research Lab: Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)

- Research Area: Fundamental Symmetries

- Collaborating DOE Scientist: Leah Broussard

"Receiving this award has been very encouraging. I now feel more confident than ever in my ability to carry out my research project and eventually complete my Ph.D.," Nelsen said. "My project will focus on streamlining data processing and enabling a thorough detector characterization for Nab -- a fundamental neutron physics experiment being commissioned at Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Spallation Neutron Source."

Manh Tien Nguyen: Department of Chemical Engineering, College of Engineering

- Research Lab: National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL)

- Research Area: Basic Science for Clean Energy and Decarbonization

- Collaborating DOE Scientist: Yuhua Duan

"It is an honor to receive this prestigious award, which supports my research proposal to advance the foundational understanding of the chemical reaction and transport mechanism at air-solvent interfaces for development of novel direct air capture technology using deep eutectic solvents," Nguyen said. "The research will be an exciting opportunity for me to enhance my scientific knowledge and research conducting skills in machine learning-molecular simulation integration, chemisorption mechanisms, and the relationship of solvation, transport, and reactivity of molecules and ions in heterogeneous environments. The award is an invaluable experience as I will not only do research but also make professional connections in my field, which will prepare me for future endeavors."

Henry David Pruett: Department of Chemistry, College of Arts and Sciences

- Research Lab: National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

- Research Area: Basic Science for Clean Energy and Decarbonization

- Collaborating DOE Scientist: Matthew Beard

"This award is a very exciting opportunity. Working at NREL offers access to not only cutting-edge instruments and techniques, but it also allows me to work with some of the leading figures in the domain of perovskite photovoltaics," Pruett said. "My research will be on how changes to the molecular structure of certain compounds in the perovskite affects various optical, electronic, transport and stability properties of the resultant material. By increasing our understanding in this space, we will be better able to design materials that are more efficient, cheaper and more durable, as well as may be used in any number of applications such as LEDs, transistors and photovoltaics."

Awardees were chosen from a diverse pool of graduate applicants from institutions around the country. Selection was based on merit peer review by external scientific experts.

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