Gregory S. Day ’19, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Chemistry at Texas A&M University, has been selected to receive a United States Department of Energy Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) Program Award in support of research addressing scientific challenges central to the agency’s mission and workforce development.
Day, whose research as a member of Texas A&M chemist Dr. Hongcai Joe Zhou’s laboratory focuses on the study of amorphous porous materials and the metal-centered behavior of metal-organic frameworks for applications in gas storage and catalysis, is one of 70 awardees from 52 different U.S. universities that grant doctoral degrees in physical sciences for the program’s 2018 Solicitation 2 cycle. In addition, he is the first Texas A&M student to earn selection in the program’s five-year history.
The goal of the SCGSR Program is to prepare graduate students for science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) careers critically important to the DOE Office of Science’s mission by providing them with graduate-thesis-enhancing research opportunities at DOE laboratories, where they will spend anywhere from 3-to-12 months conducting research in collaboration with a DOE laboratory scientist. The award includes travel support to and from the laboratory as well as a monthly stipend of up to $3,000 to help cover general living expenses while at the host DOE laboratory during the award period. Awardees are selected from a diverse pool of university-based graduate applicants based on merit peer review by outside scientific experts.
Day is one of nine 2019 awardees who will be conducting collaborative research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He will be in residence there from June to December, working with amorphous carbonaceous materials and exploring their structural properties using the state-of-the-art neutron scattering properties of the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) — specifically neutron-scattering-based pair distribution function (PDF) analysis. He will be working with ORNL beamline scientist Dr. Katharine Page, who has extensive experience studying the structural properties of amorphous materials.
The SCGSR research projects are expected to advance each awardee’s overall doctoral thesis while providing access to the expertise, resources and capabilities available at the DOE laboratory facilities. In addition to strong alignment with one of the DOE Office of Science’s priority mission areas, each research project must demonstrate a high need for workforce development, given that the SCGSR Program plays an important role in sustaining a pipeline for highly skilled scientific and technological workforce development.
“These graduate student awards prepare young scientists for STEM careers critically important to the DOE mission,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. “We are proud of the accomplishments these outstanding awardees have already have made, and look forward to following their achievements in years to come. They represent the future leadership and innovation that will allow American science and engineering to excel in the 21st century.”
For his research project, “Investigation of Metal-Organic Framework Derived Carbons in Gas Phase Catalysis,” Day will be investigating the processes that occur during the carbonization of metal-organic frameworks — precisely arranged, highly crystalline and permanently porous extended coordination networks that hold promise in a variety of energy, environment and healthcare-related areas and applications.
“Specifically, I will be investigating how gas and temperature environments affect both the metal-oxide phase and carbonaceous scaffold,” Day said. “Our hope is to develop new methods of producing MOF-derived carbons that have precisely tuned metal-oxide nanoparticles for use in heterogeneous catalysis.”
Day earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry from Brandeis University in 2010, then spent five years with ExxonMobil Chemical Company’s organometallic catalysis division in Baytown before deciding to begin pursuing his Ph.D. in chemistry at Texas A&M in fall 2015 as a member of the Zhou research group.
“Prior to coming to Texas A&M, I had worked in industrial R&D, and going to ORNL will allow me to broaden my horizons to see how the national laboratory system operates,” Day said. “I hope this will give me a broad perspective in my future career, enabling me to see the bigger picture in science.
“The Zhou lab’s work in porous materials will greatly benefit from this experience, as much of our current research is in the area of partially disordered, multi-component systems. In particular, the use of neutron-scattering PDF will vastly improve our ability to understand the structure and property of these materials. I hope that my experience will help pave the way for other Texas A&M graduate students to consider taking their own opportunity to participate in the SCGSR Program.”
Oak Ridge National Laboratory is the largest DOE science and energy laboratory, conducting basic and applied research to deliver transformative solutions to compelling problems in energy and security. Its diverse capabilities span a broad range of scientific and engineering disciplines, enabling the laboratory to explore fundamental science challenges and to carry out the research needed to accelerate the delivery of solutions to the marketplace.
To learn more about the Zhou research group, go to http://www.chem.tamu.edu/rgroup/zhou/index.html.
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About the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science: The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.
About Research at Texas A&M University: As one of the world’s leading research institutions, Texas A&M is at the forefront in making significant contributions to scholarship and discovery, including that of science and technology. Research conducted at Texas A&M represented annual expenditures of more than $922 million in fiscal year 2018. Texas A&M ranked in the top 20 of the National Science Foundation’s Higher Education Research and Development survey (2017), based on expenditures of more than $905.4 million in fiscal year 2017. Texas A&M’s research creates new knowledge that provides basic, fundamental and applied contributions resulting, in many cases, in economic benefits to the state, nation and world. To learn more, visit http://research.tamu.edu/.
Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Gregory S. Day, (979) 845-3216 or email@example.com; or Dr. Hongcai Joe Zhou, (979) 845-4034 or firstname.lastname@example.org