Department News

Kathryn Knowles Receives NSF CAREER Award

December 22, 2020

Prof. KnowlesCongratulations to Kathryn Knowles, UR Chemistry Assistant Professor, who has been named as a recipient of a 2020 Faculty Early CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for her proposal entitled, “Combining Main Group and Transition Metals to Tune the Electronic Structure, Photophysics, and Photocatalytic Activity of Spinel Oxide Nanocrystals.”  

The NSF 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.

Knowles and coworkers plan to develop novel synthetic approaches to mixed-metal oxide nanocrystals and investigate how their composition influences their optical and electronic properties using a combination of electronic structure calculations and spectroscopic measurements. The long-term goal of this research is to enable the rational design of visible light-absorbing semiconductors that can efficiently separate photogenerated electrons from holes for long periods of time. Such materials are crucial components of light-harvesting technologies for solar energy conversion. The particular class of nanocrystals the Knowles group will investigate - ternary spinel oxides - have potential applications as photocatalysts that use sunlight to facilitate the rapid degradation of persistent organic pollutants, such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl compounds known as “forever chemicals”, found in many water sources. Dr. Knowles will also oversee an integrated education program that aims to cultivate positive attitudes about science in undergraduate and elementary school students by engaging them in activities that capture the creative and collaborative aspects of scientific research.

Katie received her B.S. in chemistry from the University of Rochester in 2008. She then moved to Northwestern University to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry with Emily Weiss. Katie’s Ph.D. focused on using small molecules to probe the relationship between surface chemistry and excited state decay in colloidal semiconductor quantum dots. In 2013, she joined Daniel Gamelin’s group at the University of Washington as a postdoc where she investigated the photoluminescence mechanisms of transition-metal doped quantum dots with applications in luminescent solar concentrators.

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