Eleven postdoctoral appointees at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory received 2021 Postdoctoral Performance Awards that recognized their contributions to the Laboratory’s pivotal discoveries.
The postdocs were recognized on Nov. 4, 2021, during a virtual ceremony that showcased the diverse expertise of the Lab’s postdoc community and its valuable contributions to research ranging from batteries to X-ray science.
“We can tell we’re onto something when they get excited about it. Just having them bring a different perspective enriches the work that we do. The awards are just one of the ways that we can acknowledge the postdocs for the great work that they do, while celebrating the contributions they are making to the lab.” — Stephen K. Streiffer, deputy laboratory director for science and technology
The Postdoctoral Performance Awards program focuses on three categories: applied research, basic research and engineering research. The awards went to researchers who had not only made significant contributions to their field, but who also showed ingenuity in problem solving and demonstrated collaborative and leadership ability. Finally, awardees were recognized for how they demonstrate Argonne’s core values of impact, safety, respect, integrity and teamwork.
The postdoc awardees were nominated by their peers and fellow researchers. “For me, the best part of the awards process is receiving nominations from across the lab that tell great stories about how our postdocs are emerging as leaders in research,” said Tina Henne, Argonne Leadership Institute Postdoctoral Program lead. “If you look at our recipients, you will see the wide array of research happening at Argonne, from materials discovery, to fundamental particle physics, to automotive technology and even COVID-19 research.”
Here is a look at the awardees.
Recipients of the Applied Research award were:
- Bob Jin Kwon, in the Chemical Sciences and Engineering (CSE) division, provided work that led to a fundamental understanding of electrochemical magnesium ion (Mg-ion) activity in spinel oxides, or the framework used in battery cathodes. New cathode materials are especially important in the search for batteries that can store more energy and last longer.
- Xuanxuan “Michelle” Bi, in CSE, built a differential electrochemical mass spectrometer for metal ion/oxygen batteries, which looks at gases generated from batteries during cycling. It allows researchers to predict the specific reaction generated at each stage during battery cycling. It was the first such instrument for battery research at Argonne.
- Zhi Qiao, in the X-ray Science division, developed a breakthrough X-ray wavefront-sensing technique which significantly improves the ability of scientists to measure X-ray optics and beam quality at the Advanced Photon Source (APS), a DOE Office of Science user facility, and other synchrotron X-ray light sources. This innovation will be important for the facility after the APS Upgrade is completed and, in combination with deep learning techniques, will also lead the way to real-time imaging of samples ranging from biomedical specimens to solar cells.
- Heng Ma, in the Data Science and Learning division, played a critical role in the National Virtual Biotechnology Lab COVID-19 therapeutics project, accelerating the discovery of drug molecules that can disrupt the viral function of an important protein that plays a role in the COVID virus lifecycle. Such molecules could become antiviral drug candidates that may help people recover quickly from COVID-19.
Recipients of the Basic Research award were:
- Xianjing Zhou, in the Nanoscience and Technology (NST) division, had groundbreaking work that demonstrated a fundamentally new type of qubit, which is short for quantum bit, the basic unit of quantum information for a quantum computer. Quantum computing and quantum information science could enable the processing of information more efficiently and securely.
- Simon Corrodi, in the High Energy Physics division, played an instrumental role in the international Muon g-2 collaboration, where he serves as an analysis co-coordinator, run coordinator and executive board member. The Muon g-2 experiment is designed to look for very subtle effects that point the way to physics beyond the known fundamental particles and forces of nature, described in the Standard Model that currently informs our understanding of physics.
- Cristian Cortes, in NST, developed mathematical equations to describe the interactions between defects in diamond and proposed new methods for improving the performance of quantum sensors. Quantum sensors can be used for magnetic field detection, strain detection, etc., and have many applications in physics, chemistry and medicine.
- Lily Robertson, in CSE, investigated new batteries for stationary energy storage, which are needed for renewable energy. These batteries rely on flowing fluids that store energy as the battery charges and discharges. She worked on molecules that diagnose health problems in the battery by changing color. She also was noted for her contributions to “self-driving” labs that combine machine learning and automated instrumentation.
- Alexandre Renchon, in the Environmental Science division, played a leading role within the DOE Office of Biological and Environmental Research, Environmental System Science program that contributed to the understanding of carbon and water exchanges between the land and the atmosphere, which ultimately enhances Earth climate models.
Recipients of the Engineering Research award were:
- Natalia Zuniga, in the Energy Systems (ES) division, implemented a statistical model to predict the demand for multiple transportation modes, including rail transit and rideshare services. Zuniga also is a leader within the Postdoctoral Society of Argonne.
- Joohan Kim, in ES, helped establish a novel approach for modeling electrical discharge in internal combustion engines. This approach can accurately estimate temperature, pressure and discharge shape. This addressed the needs for predictive model development in the automotive industry, and contributed to the DOE Partnership for Advanced Combustion Engines Initiative.
Laboratory leaders look forward to presenting the awards to the postdoctoral researchers each year.
“We can tell we’re onto something when they get excited about it,” said Stephen K. Streiffer, deputy laboratory director for science and technology. “Just having them bring a different perspective enriches the work that we do. The awards are just one of the ways that we can acknowledge the postdocs for the great work that they do, while celebrating the contributions they are making to the lab.”
About Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials
The Center for Nanoscale Materials is one of the five DOE Nanoscale Science Research Centers, premier national user facilities for interdisciplinary research at the nanoscale supported by the DOE Office of Science. Together the NSRCs comprise a suite of complementary facilities that provide researchers with state-of-the-art capabilities to fabricate, process, characterize and model nanoscale materials, and constitute the largest infrastructure investment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The NSRCs are located at DOE’s Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley, Oak Ridge, Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories. For more information about the DOE NSRCs, please visit https://science.osti.gov/User-Facilities/User-Facilities-at-a-Glance.
The Argonne Leadership Computing Facility provides supercomputing capabilities to the scientific and engineering community to advance fundamental discovery and understanding in a broad range of disciplines. Supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Science, Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) program, the ALCF is one of two DOE Leadership Computing Facilities in the nation dedicated to open science.
The Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR), a DOE Energy Innovation Hub, is a major partnership that integrates researchers from many disciplines to overcome critical scientific and technical barriers and create new breakthrough energy storage technology. Led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, partners include national leaders in science and engineering from academia, the private sector, and national laboratories. Their combined expertise spans the full range of the technology-development pipeline from basic research to prototype development to product engineering to market delivery.
About the Advanced Photon Source
The U. S. Department of Energy Office of Science’s Advanced Photon Source (APS) at Argonne National Laboratory is one of the world’s most productive X-ray light source facilities. The APS provides high-brightness X-ray beams to a diverse community of researchers in materials science, chemistry, condensed matter physics, the life and environmental sciences, and applied research. These X-rays are ideally suited for explorations of materials and biological structures; elemental distribution; chemical, magnetic, electronic states; and a wide range of technologically important engineering systems from batteries to fuel injector sprays, all of which are the foundations of our nation’s economic, technological, and physical well-being. Each year, more than 5,000 researchers use the APS to produce over 2,000 publications detailing impactful discoveries, and solve more vital biological protein structures than users of any other X-ray light source research facility. APS scientists and engineers innovate technology that is at the heart of advancing accelerator and light-source operations. This includes the insertion devices that produce extreme-brightness X-rays prized by researchers, lenses that focus the X-rays down to a few nanometers, instrumentation that maximizes the way the X-rays interact with samples being studied, and software that gathers and manages the massive quantity of data resulting from discovery research at the APS.
This research used resources of the Advanced Photon Source, a U.S. DOE Office of Science User Facility operated for the DOE Office of Science by Argonne National Laboratory under Contract No. DE-AC02-06CH11357.
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.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science.