Dr. Rufina Alamo
Title of Research: Crystallization of Polymers
Description of Research Area: Crystallization of model precision and random polyethylenes
This project will address how the melt structure of polymers with short or long branches, or with polar or non-polar branches may change their crystallization behavior. Studies of model blends, and polyethylenes with pendant groups, either random or at a precise distance will enable building of fundamental relations between chain-structure and properties to predict the behavior of commercial complex polyethylene materials. These studies are significant because the exponential expansion of shale gas extraction in USA has placed the US as the most competitive provider of derivatives such as polyethylenes. Hence, advances in the understanding of the state of the melt and crystallization of polyethylenes are of relevance as they could derive new processing technologies and lead to major cost- and energy saving technologies. This research is also aimed at providing learning and training opportunities for postdoctoral scholars with interest in broadening knowledge of fundamentals of polymer crystallization as it applies to major polyolefin manufacturing processes.
Website Link: Department Profile
Dr. Biwu Ma
Title of Research: Organic-Inorganic Metal Halide Hybrids Beyond Perovskites
Description of Research Area:
Organic-inorganic metal halide hybrids, consisting of a wide range of organic cations and inorganic anions, are an important emerging class of crystalline materials with exceptional structural and property tunability. By choosing appropriate organic and inorganic components, the crystallographic structures can be finely controlled with the inorganic units, e.g. metal halide octahedra, forming 3D, 2D, 1D, and 0D structures at the molecular level in the hybrids. Remarkable progress has been realized in this research area in recent years, focusing mainly on 3D and 2D structures, but left low dimensional 1D and 0D structures significantly underexplored. As a world leading research group in this field, my group has successfully developed a number of low dimensional organic metal halide hybrids with 1D and 0D structures during the last couple of years (Nat. Comm. 2017, 8, 14051; Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2017, 56, 9018-9022; Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2017, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201710383; Chem. Sci. 2017, 8,
8400-8404; ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2017, 9, 40446-40451; ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces
2017, 9, 44579-44583; Chem. Sci. 2018, DOI: 10.1039/C7SC04539E; ACS Energy Lett. 2018, 3,
54-62). To further advance the research in metal halide hybrids, a new postdoctoral scholar will work under my supervision to develop new synthesis and processing approaches to assembly metal halide hybrids with controlled structural dimensionalities. Various characterization tools will be utilized to gain insights of nucleation mechanisms and growth kinetics to understand how the organic cations, inorganic anions, and synthetic conditions affect the crystal formation, and get a comprehensive understanding of the properties of the new materials to reveal the structure- property relationships. The applications of the new organic-inorganic hybrid materials in various types of optoelectronic devices, including photovoltaic cells (PVs), light emitting diodes (LEDs), photodetectors, and optically pumped lasers, will be explored. The success of this proposal will open up new avenues of research in low-cost high performance functional materials and devices.
Special Research & Career Skills: Multidisciplinary trainings in the areas of synthetic chemistry, device physics, chemical engineering, etc. will be offered. In addition, the postdoc will improve writing skills though publications and grant applications, as well as presentation and communication skills by attending group, domestic and international meetings. The interactions with researchers with diverse backgrounds will improve the teamwork and leadership.
Website Link: Ma Lab
Dr. Jose Mendoza-Cortez
Title of Research: Materials discovery for energy applications by deep learning
Description of Research Area:
Theoretical and computational studies are integral parts of research in interdisciplinary areas of science and technology. The advent of powerful modern computers, developments in sophisticated algorithms and theories, and access to a large amount of data from previous studies suggest that in the future, computational techniques would continue to play a dominant role in both fundamental and applied research. However, currently used computational methods have well-known limitations. Although a few groups have introduced automated reaction search algorithms and high-throughput studies with some success, myriads of unique possible pathways and combinations should be investigated by using accurate theoretical methods to furnish a reliable theoretical prediction of the reaction outcome. This makes the calculations prohibitively expensive, highly time consuming, and tedious compared to the actual experiments.
Inspiring from the recent success of deep-learning and artificial neural networks, we propose to apply them for the designing of novel materials for energy related applications. We would like to apply the principles of machine leaning to design solar energy materials, batteries, and energy storage devices. We would use existing machine learning algorithms and also develop our own code to tackle with the challenging problems in chemistry and materials science. A combination of fields would help us to analyze, understand, and rationalize the structure-activity relationships of numerous candidate systems and select the optimum ones for the experimental realization.
Special Research & Career Skills:
Expertise on electronic structure calculations for both molecular and periodic systems, scripting/programming expertise, multiscale and atomistic simulation techniques, engineering devices, Monte-Carlo methods, reactive molecular dynamics, and force-field based simulations.
Assistance with Job opportunities, training to submit proposals, formal coaching to present research findings.
Website Link: Mendoza-Cortes Lab
Dr. Samuel Grant
Title of Research: High Field Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Spectroscopy Applied to Neurodegeneration
Description of Research Area: Focusing on the use of high field MR imaging and spectroscopy to evaluate the efficacy of cellular therapy, the proposed effort would investigate the use of expanded and pre-conditioned adult human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) from bone marrow and adipose tissue sources as a novel ischemic stroke treatment. Postdoctoral fellows would learn to evaluate hMSC homing and stroke recovery with non-invasive MRI and MR spectroscopy approaches in pre-clinical animal models as a means of determining the efficacy of different pre-conditioned steps of in hMSC culture. Hypoxia and aggregation of hMSC in vitro have shown greater viability and increased proliferation, and use of these pre-treated cells should increase their therapeutic effect once transplanted in the stroked brain. High field MRI will be used to provide the sensitivity and specificity to track implanted cells over time while permitting for the acquisition of sodium images and relaxation-enhanced localized spectroscopy of metabolites to detect early markers for stroke recovery. The ideal postdoctoral fellow would have experience with MR physics and acquisition, be interested in learning novel MR techniques applied to neurodegeneration, be willing to collaborate with an international group of researchers, and contribute to the translation of finding to clinical implementation and other neurological diseases. A particular focus will be on the evaluation of glutamate via MR spectroscopy and chemical exchange saturation transfer MR imaging as metrics of recovery as well as a target for therapy. Applications of these techniques to other acute and chronic neurodegenerative processes will be evaluated. These efforts will be supported by a recently funded NIH R01 grant awarded in August 2017.
Special Research & Career Skills: Postdoctoral fellows will have access to one-of-a-kind NHMAL facilities, including the 900-MHz, 21.1-T magnet and 36-T Series Connect Hybrid for MRI. Fellows will collaborate with an international cadre of MR experts and NHMFL users. To foster career development, fellows will be mentored in grant writing as well as lab management.