Three UNC Teachers Earn National Science Grants

Three young scholars at UNC have received prominent awards from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy to support their research.

Erik J. Alexanian, an assistant professor of chemistry, and Jason L. Metcalfe, an assistant professor of mathematics, received Early Career Development Awards from the foundation. The awards recognize exemplary research and education by teacher-scholars in the early stages of their careers. Rene Lopez, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy, received an Early Career Research Award from the department. The awards, which are five-year grants, are designed to support exceptional researchers early in their careers and provide incentives for scientists to focus on high-priority energy research areas.

Using his $550,000 award, Alexanian intends to develop new chemical reactions capable of providing direct access to valuable classes of bioactive compounds from simple, readily accessed hydrocarbons. He also aims to establish an outreach program involving chemistry department graduate students giving presentations at local high schools that show the impact of synthetic chemistry on everyday life. The presentations will be videotaped and made available over the Internet.

Metcalfe expects to use his $411,000 award to fund his research on the behavior of waves near black holes, trying to quantify their tendency to decay and disperse. Through his proposal, Metcalfe plans to develop a course on general relativity, as well as a first-year seminar.

Lopez has been awarded $811,000 to support his work in designing high-efficiency, dye-sensitized solar cells. He was among 65 recipients from a pool of 1,150 applicants for the award. Lopez previously won an innovation award from the Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement to support his solar energy research.

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