Ben Martin awarded National Science Foundation CAREER honors

By Marc Speir
University News Service
March 5, 2008

Ben Martin, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Texas State University-San Marcos, recently received a prestigious CAREER award from the National Science Foundation.

The NSF, a highly competitive grant agency, offers CAREER awards to outstanding scientists and engineers that are early in their careers and have shown exceptional potential for leadership at the frontiers of knowledge.

The CAREER award is given to young teacher-scholars who most effectively integrate both advanced research and a strong educational component into their profession.

At only 34, Martin has 23 publications and has taught at the university for five years.

Martin’s winning grant proposal involves the launch of a “family science night” to be offered once a month at local public schools in the San Marcos School District.

Under the plan, based on the success of the ongoing “family reading nights,” university students from the American Chemical Society student chapter will visit elementary schools and present hands-on experiments such as the acid-base chemistry of common household products.

Martin would like to extend the program to middle school students in the future.

“Kids begin to lose interest in science at the middle school age levels,” said Martin, faculty advisor to the American Chemical Society student chapter. “We need a way to inspire them and keep them excited.”

The total CAREER grant amounts to $400,000 given over a five-year period and will also be used to fund Martin’s research at Texas State. Funds are bookmarked for new equipment, student salaries, and for travel to bolster collaborative research projects.

Martin’s principle research is on the synthesis of multifunctional inorganic crystalline compounds for use as solid electrolytes in batteries or as catalysts to remove sulfur impurities from fuels.

“Current regulations demand that a significant portion (of sulfur) must be removed from fossil fuels so environmentally dangerous side effects like acid rain are minimized,” Martin said. “We hope that the compounds we’re creating will act as catalysts that are competitive with the best existing materials.”

Martin previously received the 2006 College of Science Presidential Service Award and the 2007 College of Science Presidential Teaching Award.