Green energy researcher at U of L wins grant Sunday, Feb 2 2020 

By Matthew Keck —

Joshua Spurgeon, a University of Louisville renewable energy researcher, won the National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award. Along with the award, he will receive a $500,000 grant from the NSF that will go towards research and education over the next five years.

Spurgeon is theme leader for solar fuels at the Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research in the J.B. School of Engineering. “The basic concept is to find ways to direct the energy of sunlight to run electrochemical reactions such as water-splitting to make clean fuels like hydrogen,” he said.

His research is geared towards increasing energy independence and sustainability of society. “Specifically, making clean fuels like H2, which have no CO2 emissions when used, are a way to have energy-dense storage of solar energy,” said Spurgeon. “This H2 could be used in fuel cells for onsite electricity generation for utilities, or it could be used for transportation applications, or it can be a clean feedstock in the chemical industry. But it is a way to store intermittent solar energy so that it can be used at any time, like when the sun isn’t shining.”

Spurgeon said the grant will be used to research microparticles capable of spontaneously splitting water under illumination. “We will improve the design of these particles, verify their performance capabilities, and study their behavior under different conditions,” he said. “We will also study and try to improve a whole system, which would be a slurry of these solar water-splitting particles suspended in water.”

In addition to the research aspect of the grant, some of it will go towards education. “The educational part of the grant involves helping to develop a new master’s program in energy and materials science, bringing in underrepresented students for research internships, and getting more senior graduate students into entrepreneurial education to help them commercialize their successes,” said Spurgeon.

To be considered for this award, Spurgeon had to submit a proposal detailing the research he would conduct over the five years and education initiatives to tie students into the work. He is unique in winning this award because he is non-faculty, placing him among a small group of recipients like himself.

He has been researching the solar fuels field since earning his PhD from the California Institute of Technology in 2010. Before coming to U of L in 2014, he worked at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, researching solar fuels.

Photo Courtesy of The University of Louisville 

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U of L receives $1 million grant to improve STEM equity Sunday, Sep 29 2019 

By Matthew Keck–

The National Science Foundation awarded the University of Louisville a $1 million grant to improve faculty equity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

“This grant will help the University of Louisville meet its strategic goal of promoting equity for all faculty,” said U of L President Neeli Bendapudi in the release. “The STEM fields play such a critical role in the future of our commonwealth. We must ensure that our female faculty have every opportunity to progress in their careers so they can inspire the next generation of leaders and innovators.”

This award is going towards a three-year initiative called Advancement Through Healthy Empowerment, Networking and Awareness (ATHENA). ATHENA aims to promote success for female faculty in STEM fields.

The J.B. Speed School of Engineering, Office of the Executive Vice President for Research and Innovation, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Business, School of Medicine, Vice Provost Office for Faculty Affairs, Human Resources and the Office of Diversity and Equity are all supporting the ATHENA initiative.

They will be making five key implementations:

  • Changing search, recruitment and hiring practices to increase diversity and excellence;
  • Creating a faculty mentoring program with an emphasis on improving opportunities for mid-career promotion;
  • Establishing a program to support the career progress of faculty experiencing major life events;
  • Implementing data collection to support evaluation and monitoring efforts;
  • Educating faculty about gender and ethnicity biases that affect the advancement of women in STEM disciplines through theatre-based workshops.

“The number of women obtaining science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) doctorate degrees has increased steadily in recent decades,” states NSF’s ADVANCE brochure “However, women continue to be underrepresented in STEM academic positions, especially at senior ranks and in leadership positions.”

Since 2001 NSF’s ADVANCE program has awarded more than $270 million in grants to higher education and non-profit organizations in America. The ADVANCE program will be funding U of L’s ATHENA initiative.

U of L is one of only two schools in Kentucky to have received an award under this program.

Photo Courtesy of the University of Louisville

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