Four Argonne National Laboratory scientists receive Early Career Research Program awardsBy Brian Grabowski • May 10, 2012
ARGONNE, Ill. — Four researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have received 2012 Early Career Research Program awards, granted to exceptional researchers beginning their careers.
The four are among 68 selectees announced by the DOE’s Office of Science, and were chosen based on peer review from about 850 nominations submitted last November. The selectees for this year are from 47 different institutions in 25 states.
The winners from Argonne are:
- Pavan Balaji, computer scientist, Mathematics and Computer Science Division.
- Victor Zavala, assistant computational mathematician, Mathematics and Computer Science Division.
- Volker Rose, assistant physicist, X-Ray Science Division and Center for Nanoscale Materials.
- Richard Wilson, assistant chemist, Chemical Sciences and Engineering Division.
“Argonne is extremely proud that four of our young researchers have been chosen for this important award,” said Eric D. Isaacs, director, Argonne National Laboratory. “These young scientists and engineers will play a vital role in our nation’s future, helping to assure that invention and innovation continue to fuel America’s global competitiveness in the years to come."
Balaji has made outstanding contributions to data movement and runtime systems for parallel programming models on very large computing systems. His research will focus on efficient communication systems for supercomputers equipped with complex computational and memory hierarchies, including heavily hierarchical processing units and complex heterogeneous architectures such as integrated or discrete accelerators.
Balaji received his Ph.D. in computer science and engineering from Ohio State University in 2006. He has published almost 100 peer-reviewed articles in journals and conference proceedings and has given nearly 120 invited presentations and invited tutorials. He has been co-editor of several journal special issues and in recent years has held more than 30 chairman and editor positions.
Zavala will develop extreme-scale optimization solvers to guide the design and real-time coordination of national infrastructure systems (for example, electricity, natural gas, water, transportation) and to understand the physical flexibility of these systems, a key feature in determining the likelihood and economic impact of cascading shortages. He will also seek to enable scaling on high-performance computing architectures by exploiting physical characterizations of optimization and uncertainty domains.
Zavala received his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in 2008, with an emphasis in mathematical modeling and numerical optimization. At Argonne, he investigates impacts of stochastic optimization and weather forecasting on the national power grid and develops real-time optimization algorithms to enable the deployment of predictive models at fast time scales. He also leads collaborative projects with building energy management companies to create and test new automation architectures that integrate predictive control, machine learning models, and emerging sensor technologies to maximize energy efficiency and occupant comfort.
Rose’s award will allow him to develop a novel high-resolution microscopy technique for imaging nanoscale materials with chemical, electronic and magnetic contrast. The technique will combine sub-nanometer spatial resolution of scanning probe microscopy with the chemical, electronic and magnetic sensitivity of synchrotron radiation. Drawing upon experience from a simple prototype that demonstrates general feasibility, the development will drastically increase the spatial resolution of current state-of-the-art X-ray microscopy from only tens of nanometers down to atomic resolution. This technique will enable fundamentally new methods of characterization. A better understanding of these phenomena at the nanoscale has great potential to improve the conversion efficiency of quantum energy devices,
Rose holds an advanced degree in physics and received a doctoral degree from RWTH Aachen, Germany in 2005. During this time he conducted research at Research Center Julich, the largest interdisciplinary research center in Europe. After a postdoctoral appointment at the Center for Nanoscale Materials (CNM) at Argonne, he joined the Microscopy Group at the Advanced Photon Source as assistant physicist in 2007. He currently holds an interdivisional appointment between APS and CNM.
Wilson received his award to study the chemistry of one of the very rarest elements, protactinium. Protactinium is sandwiched between thorium and uranium in the actinide series of the periodic table. The unique electronic structure of protactinium makes it the ideal candidate to investigate the chemical subtleties between the heavy actinide elements and their lighter transition metal cousins. Because of its rarity, most experiments and calculations skip over protactinium when discussing the electronic properties of the actinide elements. The goal of Wilson’s research is to unify our understanding of bonding and electronic structure across the entire periodic table by directly targeting protactinium as the missing link in this chemistry.
Wilson received his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 2005, with an emphasis in actinide chemistry. At Argonne, he works in the Heavy Elements and Separation Sciences group in the Chemical Sciences and Engineering Division studying the fundamental coordination chemistry of the actinide elements.
The five-year awards are designed to bolster the nation’s scientific workforce by providing support to outstanding researchers during the crucial early years of their careers, when many scientists do their most formative work. The awards also aim to provide incentives for scientists to focus on mission research areas that are a high priority for the DOE and the nation.
The U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.