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Pengfei (Frank) Huo receives 2018 NSF CAREER Award

December 13, 2018

Frank HuoCongratulations to UR Chemistry Assistant Professor Pengfei (Frank) Huo who is the recipient of a 2018 CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation for his proposal entitled “Quantum Dynamics of Photochemical Reactions in Solar Energy Conversions.”  The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is a Foundation-wide program that offers the NSF's most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations. Such support is expected to help build a firm foundation for a lifetime of faculty leadership in integrating education and research.

Huo and coworkers plan to develop new quantum dynamics approaches for investigating photochemical reactions. These reactions are crucial for solar fuel production. In solar-to-fuel reactions, a molecule is excited by absorption of light, and this process allows the molecule to transfer both electrons and protons to another molecule. A quantitative and predictive understanding of these reactions is hampered by the lack of efficient and accurate theoretical approaches. The Huo group will investigate new quantum dynamics methods that aim to address these theoretical challenges. They use computational tools to simulate coupled electron and proton transfer reactions in photocatalytic conversions. Such insights inspire new design principles and paradigms for next-generation photocatalytic energy production. Dr. Huo's research program is integrated with an educational component centered on theoretical chemistry, including the 'Journey to the Molecular World' summer school for high school students in the Rochester City School District. This project aims to inspire student curiosity and enthusiasm about molecular science and encourage high school students to pursue higher education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

Frank received his B.S. in chemistry from Lanzhou University of China in 2007. He then moved to Boston University to pursue his Ph.D. in theoretical chemistry with David Coker. Frank’s Ph.D. work focused on developing efficient and accurate non-adiabatic dynamics methods to understand the excitation energy transfer process and the electronic coherence in natural light harvesting systems. In 2012 he joined CalTech as a postdoctoral researcher in the group of Tom Miller where he worked on extending the linearized path-integral method to simulate the electron and excitation transfer dynamics, as well as applying a variety of novel computational methods such as ab-initio molecular dynamics tools and wavefunction-in-DFT embedding approach to explore the fundamental aspects of electron and proton transfer mechanisms in cobalt-based hydrogen evolution catalysts.

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