North Texas Daily

National conference draws attention from UNT’s Department of Chemistry

National conference draws attention from UNT’s Department of Chemistry

National conference draws attention from UNT’s Department of Chemistry
March 17
11:58 2014

Tim Cato // Web Editor

More than 11,000 professional chemists, professors, students and employers will come together to discuss the newest breakthroughs in topics such as harnessing energy from the sun, using nuclear materials and fuels and developing clean energy.

With a theme of “Chemistry and Materials for Energy,” Dallas will host the 247th National Meeting of the American Chemist Society March 16 through 20. The biannual conference holds hundreds of forums, career fairs, special programming and even on-site job interviews from chemists around the world.

“To see cutting-edge research being presented in the preliminary talks that are given by the most accomplished and brightest stars, whether young or veteran scientists, is very inspiring,” assistant chemistry professor Justin Youngblood said.

Youngblood is just one of the many professors and students from the UNT Department of Chemistry who will be involved in the convention this year.

“The spirit of the conference that I and my students adhere to is to take the work that you’re just about to publish, that’s really your cutting edge, and show that off and get feedback,” he said.

Youngblood attended the 232nd ACS National Meeting at San Francisco in 2006 as a student, and said it was a “transformative experience” for him.

“You get an identity when you go out and present your stuff to a community,” he said. “You’re somebody, and you’re doing something important.”

Angela Wilson, a professor and assistant chair of the UNT chemistry department, co-organized one of the forums, called “Thermodynamics, Reactivity and Spectroscopy of the Heavy Elements.” It focuses on the different areas of research of “heavy elements” – less common but more powerful materials – that are extensively used in many areas of technology.

“Heavy elements, overall, have such a critical impact upon nearly every segment of the commercial technology market and military and energy security of the U.S.,” she said.

The ACS, founded in 1876, is chartered by the U.S. Congress and has more than 161,000 members representing more than 100 countries. Registration for the Dallas conference is closed.

Wilson’s research group will give 16 presentations at the conference. Meanwhile, Youngblood and his group will only have four chemistry graduate students presenting their research – but even that is more than would have been possible if the conference had not been set locally.

One of the students is Keith Haynes, whose research focuses on making solar energy cells cheaper by increasing the surface area to make them more efficient. His work can help make the cost-to-power ratio become cheap enough that the cells become more viable.

Another student in Youngblood’s group, Eunsol Park, came from South Korea to UNT’s graduate chemistry program two years ago. Cuprous oxide, a derivative of copper, absorbs all light rays except red and could be beneficial for solar energy production. Park has researched a dye that absorbs only red light, to concentrate solar energy.

To her, the conference allows her instantly connect with other scientists, even though she’s far from home.

“[It’s] really exciting,” she said. “Even though our language or culture are totally foreign, our interests are similar.”

Ultimately, the conference provides motivation for students and their research.

“My students work in a confined, windowless laboratory, doing work that I tell them has meaning,” Youngblood said. “When they go to this conference and present their work, and see the work that is done by graduate students and other researchers in their own small windowless laboratories, they realize that they are not living in a confined conceptual space. They are part of a wide community of people.”

Featured image: Chemistry graduate student Eunsol Park stands with the poster she is presenting at this year’s American Chemical Society in Dallas on March 16 to 20. Photo by Tim Cato, Web Editor.

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