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Press Release | Argonne National Laboratory

Argonne names newest Maria Goeppert Mayer and Walter Massey Fellows

Five early-career scientists appointed to prestigious postdoctoral research positions

Fellows will study everything from cosmology to materials science.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory has awarded its newest cohort of named fellowships, providing five early-career scientists with additional support as they pursue pivotal discoveries that will make Americans safer and better off and increase our understanding of the universe.  

For 2023, the laboratory has named four Maria Goeppert Mayer Fellows and one Walter Massey Fellow. Maria Goeppert Mayer was a pioneering nuclear physicist who received the 1963 Nobel Prize in physics for discovering, at Argonne, the shell model of the atomic nucleus. Walter Massey is a leading African American scientist and executive who served as Argonne’s director in the 1980s and has served as the president of Morehouse College and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  

The Maria Goeppert Mayer Fellows are James Cornelison, Vrindaa Somjit, Mary Elizabeth Wagner and Cyndia Yu. The Walter Massey Fellow is Amanda Carr. 

With its leadership in the science community and powerful user facilities and tools, Argonne is an exceptional place to start a research career. We welcome the latest Goeppert Mayer and Massey Fellows, who will contribute to our many real-world impacts that accelerate the science that drive U.S. prosperity and security,” said Argonne Director Paul Kearns. 

Cornelison is a graduate student and research fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He is a U.S. Marine turned astrophysicist studying experimental cosmology. His work has been in developing new instruments and detectors that enable cosmological telescopes at the South Pole to discover signals of new physics in the early universe. His thesis work has involved looking at signals received from the cosmic microwave background (CMB) for cosmic inflation and other exotic physical models.  

Cornelison has focused on hands-on instrumentation design that involves building high-precision RF calibration sources and using them to characterize instrumental systematics of the BICEP3 and BICEP Array telescopes. As a Maria Goeppert Mayer fellow, his goal is to produce high-performance detector solutions in time for the next phase of cosmological experiments in which Argonne is a contributor, such as SPT-3G+ and CMB-S4.  

Somjit has been a postdoctoral researcher in Argonne’s Materials Science division since 2022, where she studies the design of qubits in oxides using first principles methods. She received her Ph.D. in May 2022 in materials science and engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Her research interests include using computational techniques to tune defects in materials to achieve desired quantum properties. In the past, she has used this approach to design materials for corrosion barriers and neuromorphic computing devices. 

For her fellowship, Somjit will work to identify spin qubits in oxides and their synthesis routes by developing and utilizing a variety of simulation techniques on both classical and quantum computers. Through this project, she plans to contribute to the development of scalable quantum information networks and also develop workflows for realistic and accurate materials simulations. 

Wagner is a research scientist with the U.S. Department of Defense. She received her doctorate in 2021 from MIT, where she developed novel thermodynamic models to describe the relationship between electrolytes and electrodes, and demonstrated ways to use these models to streamline experimentation and screen new battery chemistries. Her other research efforts included sulfur dioxide emissions-free production of copper via molten sulfide electrolysis and processing rare earth machining sludge to reclaim rare metals. Her primary research motivation has always been to enable processing of metals in a way that reduces both environmental cost and supply-chain risk. 

Wagner’s research plans include investigating sustainable rare-earth and lithium metal production, and using her unique approach to combine modeling and experimentation to better understand the fundamental behavior of complex chemistries in high-temperature environments.  

Yu is a graduate student at Stanford University working on novel instrumentation and analysis for CMB surveys. She is involved with the BICEP/Keck, Simons Observatory and CMB-S4 experiments in making ever more sensitive measurements of the CMB to probe a wide range of cosmological questions. 

As a Maria Goeppert Mayer fellow, Yu will seek to leverage Argonne’s superconducting nanofabrication facilities in order to develop ultrasensitive detectors and readouts for astroparticle applications. In particular, she is interested in exploring synergies between particle physics, cosmology and quantum sensing to build the next generation of instruments for CMB surveys. 

Walter Massey Fellow Carr has been a postdoctoral researcher at Argonne since 2020. Since coming to Argonne, she’s studied graphene-based rare earth separations using interface-specific X-ray scattering and spectroscopy techniques. Her fellowship research will focus on understanding the fundamental interactions between the different components of graphene oxide nanocomposite membranes for improved lanthanide and actinide separations.   

In graduate school, Carr worked on X-ray and interfacial characterizations of graphene and other nanocomposites. Her infrared reflection adsorption spectroscopy measurements on graphene-polymer laminar composites, the first of their kind, netted her a nomination for the Physical Electronics Conference’s Nottingham Prize, where she finished as a finalist in 2020. In 2021, the Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter named her an Emerging Leader defined by the editorial board as one of the most talented and exciting researchers in their generation.” Carr has received multiple outstanding presentation awards from both Brookhaven and Argonne national laboratories, as well as a Graduate Assistance in Area of National Need Fellowship from the U.S. Department of Education during her Ph.D. work. 

These fellows represent the future of science,” said Matthew Tirrell, Argonne interim deputy laboratory director for science and technology. They have great potential to achieve pivotal discoveries. They will confront some of the most pressing technological questions facing society and lay the foundation for next-generation advancement.” 

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://​ener​gy​.gov/​s​c​ience.