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Risko Named 2018 Cottrell Scholar

Chad Risko, assistant professor of chemistry in the UK College of Arts and Sciences and researcher at the UK Center for Applied Energy Research.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 15, 2018) — Chad Risko, an assistant professor of chemistry in the University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences, has been named a 2018 Cottrell Scholar by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement. Started in 1994, Risko is the first recipient of the award at UK, a designation that recognizes top early-career scholars in chemistry, physics and astronomy.

Cottrell Scholars focus on the dual role of the teacher-scholar. Through his Cottrell award, Risko will develop a course-based undergraduate research experience (CURE) with specific focus on the application of computing and data science in chemistry. Though the concept of big data is seemingly everywhere, Risko says it is noticeably absent in the undergraduate chemistry curriculum.

“Here, the CURE will engage students in primary chemical research to build knowledge in scientific computing and big data analysis and visualization through team-based scientific inquiry," Risko said. "The aim will be for students to develop skills and knowledge that will enable them to prosper in careers, even those beyond traditional chemistry, that are evolving at a rapid pace.”

Risko is one of two dozen academic scientists to receive the honor this year, which comes with a $100,000 award for research and teaching. The recipients are admitted through a stringent peer-review process based on their innovative research proposals and education programs, according to RSCA Senior Program Director Silvia Ronco.

Risko’s research is inspired by complex synthetic materials and the desire to discover fundamental connections among the chemical and physical phenomena that determine their performance in a variety of applications, ranging from flexible electronics through power generation and storage. Specifically, his Cottrell Scholar award, titled “High Energy Density Metal Oxides for Energy Storage: In silico Electrochemistry to Control Interface Chemistry,” will allow his group to expand their theoretical and computational chemistry studies of critical chemical reactions that take place in batteries.

“Advances in battery technologies have revolutionized how we communicate with each other, the information that we have at our fingertips, the types of energy sources that we use, and, increasingly, how we move from place to place," Risko said. "Our aim with this project is to develop novel computational approaches that allow us to better understand aspects of the chemistry that takes place in batteries so as to suggest new materials that may offer more power, longer lifetimes and improved safety.”

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The Cottrell Scholar (CS) program champions the very best early-career teacher-scholars in chemistry, physics and astronomy by providing significant discretionary awards for research. Nurturing an interdisciplinary community of outstanding scientific/academic leaders, the CS program fosters synergy among faculty at major American research universities and primarily undergraduate institutions. Cottrell Scholars engage in an annual networking event, providing them an opportunity to share insights and expertise through the Cottrell Scholar Collaborative. Outstanding candidates are admitted to the ranks of Cottrell Scholars through a stringent peer-review process based on their innovative research proposals and education programs. As scholars rise to academic leadership roles, several levels of competitive funding are available to assist them. Post-tenure Cottrell Scholars may compete for the prestigious FRED (Frontiers in Research Excellence and Discovery) Award supporting early stage, potentially transformative research.