Prof. Ellen Matson Recognized by DOE as Exceptional Researcher

August 19, 2019

MatsonProfessor Ellen Matson has been named as one of two University of Rochester faculty recipients of Early Career Research awards from the Department of Energy (DOE). The award, now in its tenth year, is designed to bolster the nation’s scientific workforce by providing support to exceptional researchers during the crucial early career years, when many scientists do their most formative work.

Matson is among 73 scientists–including 27 from DOE’s national laboratories and 46 from US universities–to receive the award from DOE’s Office of Science this year. For university faculty members, the awards pay $150,000 a year for five years.

Matson, an assistant professor of chemistry, will use her award to expand her research program into heavy element chemistry. In particular, the laboratory will begin investigating the electronic communication between four electron-rich actinide elements–thorium, uranium, neptunium and plutonium–and metal-oxide clusters.

The emphasis of this work rests in understanding the way these elements engage in sharing electrons with electron-poor metal-oxide assemblies. This could lead to new reactivity pathways for these radioactive atoms, and also new applications in separations chemistry. In particular, her work could lead to the development of well-defined, chemical uses for the long-lived radionuclides of the nuclear fuel cycle – including both the products of front-end enrichment processes and the back-end spent fuels. 

Funding through the Department of Energy’s prestigious Early Career program allows Matson to return to her scientific roots. Matson obtained her PhD in chemistry studying the synthesis, reactivity and electronic structure of electron-rich, uranium-carbon bonds. These new projects will merge Matson’s interests in multimetallic assemblies with her love of the actinide elements.

Matson’s previous awards include a Sloan Fellowship, a National Science Foundation CAREER award; the Edith Flanigen award from Humboldt University of Berlin, the Course Hero-Woodrow Wilson Fellowship for Excellence in Teaching; and a University Furth Fund award, given to foster the development of promising scientists in the natural and biological sciences. She has also been chosen as a Cottrell Scholar by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement,

To be eligible for the DOE award, a researcher must be an untenured, tenure-track assistant or associate professor at a US academic institution or a full-time employee at a DOE national laboratory, who received a PhD within the past 10 years. Research topics are required to fall within one of the Department’s Office of Science’s six major program offices: Advanced Scientific Computing Research, Basic Energy Sciences, Biological and Environmental Research, Fusion Energy Sciences, High Energy Physics, and Nuclear Physics.

Awardees were selected from a large pool of university- and national laboratory-based applicants. Selection was based on peer review by outside scientific experts. Projects announced today are selections for negotiation of financial award. The final details for each project award are subject to final grant and contract negotiations between DOE and the awardees. 

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