11:09 a.m., July 14, 2009----Thomas H. Epps, assistant professor in the University of Delaware's Department of Chemical Engineering, has been selected to receive a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on young professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.
“These extraordinarily gifted young scientists and engineers represent the best in our country,” said President Barack Obama in announcing the awards on July 9. “With their talent, creativity, and dedication, I am confident that they will lead their fields in new breakthroughs and discoveries and help us use science and technology to lift up our nation and our world.”
Established by President Bill Clinton in 1996, the awards are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Awardees are selected on the basis of two criteria: pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and a commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach. Winning scientists and engineers receive up to a five-year research grant to further their study in support of critical government missions.
Epps will receive his grant from the Department of Defense, one of nine federal departments and agencies that join to nominate the young researchers for the awards. His research targets materials design and fabrication to create conducting membranes for current and next-generation energy generation and storage devices, such as batteries, fuel cells, and solar cells.
“This work will create new nanostructured soft-material networks for ion-conducting membranes,” Epps says, “where our self-assembling networks will overcome many of the limitations found in current membranes, including inadequate internal conducting pathways, poor mechanical integrity, poor temperature stability, non-uniform pore and channel sizes, and poor chemical compatibility.”
“These awards embody the high priority placed on producing outstanding scientists and engineers to advance the nation's goals and contribute to all sectors of the economy,” says Michael Chajes, dean of UD's College of Engineering, “and Thomas Epps embodies the attributes we value in our young faculty. He is very deserving of this award, and the grant will support him as he further develops his research and education programs at UD.”
Epps, who joined the UD faculty in June 2006, earned his bachelor's and master's degrees at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his doctoral degree at the University of Minnesota. He completed postdoctoral work as a National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow in the Polymers Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md.
Epps has won a number of honors and awards, including a National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development Award, an Air Force Young Investigator grant, and the Lloyd Ferguson Young Scientist Award from the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers. He is also co-director of an NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates program at UD focused on energy and sustainability.
Article by Diane Kukich
Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson