UMERC Awards Three New Wells Graduate Fellowships

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Chen Gong works on energy harvesting

The UMD Energy Research Center (UMERC) is pleased to announce the recipients of three new Harry K. Wells graduate fellowships. Mr. Harry K. Wells (B.S.  ’43, mechanical engineering) established an endowment to support engineering graduate student research in the field of sustainable energy generation and/or storage. The fellowship comes with a 20K stipend for research and a 4K award for conference travel and materials. The 2017-18 recipients are: Chen Gong (Materials Science), Emily Hitz (Materials Science), and Mei Wang (Chemical and Biomolecular engineering).

Chen Gong's proposal to study aluminum-based metal alloys for energy harvesting applications promises to pave the way to implement metallic thin films and nanostructures with on-demand optical responses. He expects to advance the state-of-knowledge of optical materials containing Al, and to establish a class of nanophotonic devices, named perfect absorbers, to selectively operate from the UV to the NIR range of the spectrum. Upon notification of receiving the fellowship, Gong replied, “ I feel truly humbled by this recognition. I would also like to thank Professor Leite, my supervisor, and my colleagues in IREAP for the intellectually stimulating environment in our research group. I am eager to accomplish this project, and, thus, to finalize my PhD.”

Emily Hitz will be using holey graphene, a derivative of graphene with nanometer-scale holes, to improve the cycling stability of lithium metal batteries. Her project will take advantage of the excellent thermal conductivity of holey graphene to mitigate the growth of lithium dendrites. She hopes to enable high energy density batteries using this lightweight, cost-effective technique. Hitz has always been interested in pursuing viable renewable energy sources to allow for a cleaner, more efficient future. She says, “It is wonderful to be associated with the University of Maryland Energy Research Center and to be able to contribute to its impressive research record. I am grateful for the guidance that I received from my advisors as I developed the project proposal.” 

The third 2017-18 Wells fellowship recipient is Mei Wang proposes to develop new methods to stabilize bimetallic nanparticle electrocatalysts by engineering mesoscale interparticle interactions to minimize leaching of vital transition metal alloying components. Wang expects the work to contribute to the field of fuel cell electrocatalysts and in-situ electron microscopy by enabling new catalysis applications for electron beam induced growth. Dr. Taylor Woehl, UMD Associate Professor and Wang’s advisor, notes that Mei’s research project will “further the goals and mission of UMERC by enabling manufacturing of more durable electrocatalysis for polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells, which are highly efficient and environmentally sustainable and will improve US energy security.”

UMERC congratulates these three fellowship awardees.

Published March 16, 2017