Researchers honored with Cottrell College Science Award

Posted by Jayme Blaschke
University News Service
November 30, 2009

Texas State University-San Marcos researchers have been honored with the Cottrell College Science Award for their research into electricity-conducting polymers.

Jennifer Irvin of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, along with Byounghak Lee and Wilhelmus Geerts of the Department of Physics received the $100,000 prize from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement for their two-year project, "Chemistry and Physics of n-Doping Electroactive Polymers: Computationally Directed Synthesis for Improved Performance."

"N-doping electroactive polymers conduct electrons, but n-doping polymers are notoriously unstable," explained Irvin. "We are trying to find ways to make them more stable by better understanding their properties."

Such polymers would have a variety of practical uses, she said, potentially serving as capacitors to boost power in electric vehicles and could also serve to improve display technologies such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and electrochromics.

The research is a cross-disciplinary effort in which success depends on the combined expertise of synthetic chemists, theoretical physicists and experimental physicists. During the research chemistry students interact with physics students to model, design, synthesize and characterize novel conducting polymers.

"It takes all three of our principal researchers for this project to succeed," Irvin said. "Dr. Lee is the modeler--he predicts the properties the polymers will have. I synthesize the materials, and Dr. Geerts is going to test them and make sure they work the way we expect them to.

"We're building collaboration across different departments," she said. "This is a good example of how physicists and chemists can work together."

About Research Corporation for Science Advancement

Research Corporation for Science Advancement, created in 1912, is America's second-oldest foundation and the first dedicated solely to science. Through its various programs, RCSA funds innovative research by early career scientists, both individually and in teams crossing traditional disciplinary boundaries. The Cottrell College Science Award has the added goal of promoting the opportunity for undergraduate students to participate in cutting-edge research, an experience that gives them a head start in learning to think like scientists. The foundation's goal is to build and improve our scientific workforce to ensure 21st century America's prosperity and security.