Texas A&M University chemist Sarbajit Banerjee has been selected by The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (TAMEST) to receive one of the Lone Star State’s highest scientific honors, the Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award celebrating rising stars in the Texas research community and their cutting-edge research.
Banerjee, a leading expert in inorganic chemistry, solid-state physics and materials science, will be honored with the 2022 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Science for his groundbreaking efforts in artificial intelligence and energy conversion during the upcoming TAMEST 2022 Annual Conference, Forward Texas: Imperatives for Health, set for January 11-13 in San Antonio. He is one of two Texas A&M awardees, joining Texas A&M chemical engineer Jodie L. Lutkenhaus, who was selected to receive the 2022 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Engineering for her pioneering achievements toward the future of non-metal battery storage.
“Texas is at the forefront of innovation thanks to the incredible discoveries by researchers such as these,” said 2022 TAMEST Board President and National Academy of Engineering Member David E. Daniel. “The TAMEST Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards highlight the groundbreaking research taking place in Texas, and TAMEST is proud and grateful to highlight their transformational work and honor the impacts it will have on our state and communities.”
Established in 2006 and named for the late philanthropists and steadfast TAMEST supporters Edith and Peter O’Donnell, the annual awards recognize outstanding achievements by young investigators in medicine, engineering, science and technology innovation. Each are chosen for their individual contributions addressing the essential role that science and technology play in society and for work that meets the highest standards of exemplary professional performance, creativity and resourcefulness. To date, in excess of $1 million has been awarded to more than 60 recipients, including 15 who have gone on to be elected to the National Academies — four within the last two years.
2022 marks the first time in the 15-year history of the prestigious awards that Texas A&M has multiple recipients. Previous winners include former Texas A&M chemist Paul Cremer in Science (2010) and former Texas A&M engineer Haiyan Wang in Engineering (2015).
“Texas A&M prides itself on attracting and fostering the best and brightest researchers,” said Texas A&M President M. Katherine Banks. “We are proud of Drs. Sarbajit Banerjee and Jodie L. Lutkenhaus and congratulate them for being recognized as exemplary researchers as TAMEST O’Donnell Award recipients.”
Banerjee, a Davidson Chair in Science and a professor in the Texas A&M Department of Chemistry as well as an affiliated faculty member in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the Texas A&M Energy Institute, earned selection for his utilization of solid-state chemistry and materials science to impact the future of new technologies in energy conversion, energy storage, computing and even artificial intelligence.
“By imitating the way the human brain solves everyday problems, neuromorphic systems have tremendous potential to innovate big data analysis and solve pattern recognition problems that are a struggle for current digital technologies,” Daniel said. “We are honored to award Dr. Banerjee with the 2022 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Science for these truly amazing discoveries.”
Banerjee and Lutkenhaus will be recognized along with their fellow 2022 O’Donnell Award winners Jason McLellan of The University of Texas at Austin (medicine) and Ashers Partouche of Schlumberger Limited (technology innovation) during the 2022 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards Ceremony, set for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, January 12, at the Westin Riverwalk Hotel in San Antonio. Each will receive a $25,000 honorarium, a citation and an inscribed statue along with an invitation to present on their award-winning research as part of the TAMEST 2022 Annual Conference.
“It is an absolute honor to be selected for this award, which recognizes the work of an incredible team of undergraduate and graduate students as well as postdoctoral colleagues that I’ve had the privilege to mentor,” Banerjee said. “I am grateful to be part of an amazing ecosystem here in Aggieland and in the Lone Star State that has allowed us to take a swing at big problems that lie at the intersections of disciplines.”
Banerjee earned his doctorate in chemistry at State University of New York at Stony Brook in 2004. After completing postdoctoral studies at Columbia University in 2007, he spent seven years as a professor at the University at Buffalo prior to joining the Texas A&M faculty in 2014. His work, which transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries, focuses primarily on the interplay of atomistic structure and electronic structure. He has developed an impressive set of predictive design rules for identifying viable metastable compounds, established a powerful toolbox of chemical methods for synthesizing new structures that greatly expanded the current fundamental understanding of his field, and explored how unusual structural motifs manifested in these compounds can be harnessed to realize new functions.
Just by tweaking the kind of bonding that goes on and where the electrons reside, Banerjee’s team found you can get entirely new forms of matter and can gain completely new functions when one polymorph is switched for another. In his quest to develop new modes of energy efficient computing, Banerjee’s group capitalized on materials with tunable electronic instabilities to achieve what’s known as neuromorphic computing, or computing designed to replicate the brain’s unique capabilities and unmatched efficiencies.
“Dr. Banerjee is an outstanding young chemist who has developed a variety of metastable compounds that promise to revolutionize several cutting-edge technologies,” said his nominator George M. Pharr, Erle Nye ’59 Chair I in the Texas A&M Department of Materials Science and Engineering and a member of the National Academy of Engineering. “His work established that composition does not limit structure, rather structure can often be controlled independently from composition. He is also just a wonderful person who is always there to help guide his students.”
Banerjee is a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (2016) and Institute of Physics (2017) as well as member of the American Chemical Society (ACS) and a Cottrell Scholar (2011), Scialog Fellow (2013) and NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Fellow (2021). His previous career honors to date include the ACS Stanley C. Israel Regional Award for Advancing Diversity in the Chemical Sciences (2021), the American Physical Society Robert S. Hyer Graduate Student Mentor Award (2018), the Beilby Medal and Prize (2016), the Rosenhain Medal and Prize (2015), the Royal Society of Chemistry Chemical Communications Emerging Investigator Award (2015), the Journal of Physical Chemistry C Lectureship (2013), the Minerals, Metals and Materials Society Young Leader Award (2013), the State University of New York Visionary Innovator Award (2010), the ACS ExxonMobil Solid-State-Chemistry Fellowship (2010) and a National Science Foundation CAREER Award (2009). In addition, he was named to MIT Technology Review’s global list of “top 35 innovators under the age of 35” in 2012 for the discovery of dynamically switchable smart windows technology that promises a dramatic reduction in the energy footprint of buildings.
To learn more about Banerjee and his teaching, research and service activities, visit https://www.chem.tamu.edu/faculty/sarbajit-banerjee/.
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About The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas: TAMEST was co-founded in 2004 by the Honorable Kay Bailey Hutchison and Nobel Laureates Michael S. Brown, M.D., and Richard E. Smalley, Ph.D. With more than 325 members and 16 member institutions, TAMEST is composed of the Texas-based members of the three National Academies (National Academy of Medicine, National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Sciences), the Royal Society and the state’s 10 Nobel Laureates. We bring together the state’s brightest minds in medicine, engineering, science and technology to foster collaboration, and to advance research, innovation and business in Texas. TAMEST’s unique interdisciplinary model has become an effective recruitment tool for top research and development centers across Texas. Since our founding, more than 260 TAMEST members have been inducted into the National Academies or relocated to Texas. To learn more, visit https://tamest.org/.
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 science and technology. Research conducted at Texas A&M generated annual expenditures of more than $1.131 billion in fiscal year 2020. Texas A&M ranked in the top 25 of the most recent National Science Foundation Higher Education Research and Development survey based on expenditures of more than $952 million in fiscal year 2019. Texas A&M’s research creates new knowledge that provides basic, fundamental, and applied contributions resulting in economic benefits to the state, nation, and world. To learn more, visit [email protected] A&M.