Dr. Rachel D. Davidson ’19, a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Chemistry at Texas A&M University, has been selected to receive a 2021 Intelligence Community Postdoctoral Research Fellowship through the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE).
The Intelligence Community (IC) Postdoctoral Program was established in 2000 to support unclassified basic research in areas of interest to the IC. Funded primarily by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the program annually supports several postdoctoral fellows from U.S. accredited colleges and universities as well as U.S. government laboratories across the country.
Davidson earned her doctorate in chemistry along with a graduate certificate in materials, informatics and design from Texas A&M in December as a member of Texas A&M chemist Dr. Sarbajit Banerjee’s laboratory focused on materials chemistry. She previously was selected for postdoctoral study support as one of 13 Cottrell Fellows named in 2020.
“I’m incredibly thankful to receive support from the Intelligence Community for my future research and excited to work with members of the community,” Davidson said.
As an IC Postdoc Fellow, Davidson will be working in partnership with Banerjee in collaboration with an IC advisor to conduct approved research that aligns with IC-proposed opportunities — in her case, artificial intelligence-driven design of energy materials.
“Rachel is a passionate young scientist who brings truly innovative and creative solutions to the most formidable of problems,” said Banerjee, a 2019 Chancellor’s EDGES Fellow. “She has the distinctive ability to integrate data analytics with materials science. This is a potent combination, which she has been deploying to rapidly accelerate materials discovery in vanadium oxide systems relevant to energy storage and conservation.”
Davidson earned her bachelor of science in chemistry from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2015 before coming to Texas A&M in fall 2015 to begin pursuing her Ph.D. in chemistry within the Banerjee group, where her work involves understanding safety concerns for next-generation batteries through investigations of dendritic growth in magnesium-based battery systems and in design of anode architectures which may mitigate that growth. She also works to develop composite coatings containing nanostructured additives for corrosion inhibition.
“The goal of our proposed work supported by the IC Fellowship is to accelerate the discovery of new materials by combining our chemical intuition with machine learning and AI,” Davidson said. “Typically, scientists will vary one parameter at a time to understand the impact it has on which product is made, but this is a slow process in cases where a diverse range of materials can be produced and many parameters may play an important role. Our work will instead involve selecting just a few initial experiments that may vary several parameters at once.”
Davidson plans to use robotic synthesis and characterization platforms within the Banerjee laboratory to produce the samples in batches, then use machine learning to determine which subsequent experiments will give the research team the most information about their system or most likely produce a desired product.
As an ORISE IC Postdoc, Davidson receives free membership to the National Postdoctoral Association, of which ORISE is a sustaining member.
The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education is managed on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) by Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU), a university consortium of more than 100 major Ph.D.-granting academic institutions and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. ORAU has been working with government agencies, universities and corporate entities since 1946 to advance scientific research and education, protect health and the environment, and strengthen national security.
To find addition information on the Banerjee group, go to https://www.chem.tamu.edu/rgroup/banerjee/.
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