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Ryan Fox Receives DOE Award

Ryan Fox, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Applied Physical Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been selected to receive a United States Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) Program Award.

The SCGSR program provides funding for graduate students pursuing Ph.D. degrees in relevant science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) fields to conduct doctoral research at a host DOE laboratory, in collaboration with a DOE staff scientist.

“These graduate student awards prepare young scientists for STEM careers critically important to the DOE mission,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. “We are proud of the accomplishments these outstanding awardees have already made, and look forward to following their achievements in years to come. They represent the future leadership and innovation that will allow American science and engineering to excel in the 21st century.”

Fox is one of just 70 awardees selected by an panel of scientific experts from a diverse, national pool of applicants and proposals. He will be in residence at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee from June to December, working under the guidance of Dr. Wei-Ren Chen to continue his research in the area of polyelectrolytes.

“My dissertation work, and the basis of my SCGSR proposal, is focused on understanding the fundamental polyelectrolyte physics and how that understanding can enable us to engineer new high-performance materials, such as Kevlar® fibers,” Fox said. “Specifically, one of the main question I am trying to answer is how does shear flow influence the solution structure of rodlike polyelectrolytes. Because most materials undergo shear flow prior to their end use, a detailed understanding of how flow and structure are coupled is of critical importance.”

ORNL is the largest US DOE science and energy laboratory, with capabilities spanning a broad range of scientific and engineering disciplines. The SCGSR program will allow Fox access to state-of-the-art DOE facilities and resources for his research, particularly in utilizing a technique called ‘small-angle scattering,’ which uses either light, X-rays, or neutrons to determine the location of individual molecules in relation to one another, as well as how they interact. Fox has previously traveled to ORNL to conduct Small-Angle Neutron Scattering (SANS) experiments at the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS).

“I will work closely with Dr. Chen and perform SANS experiments while the material of interest is simultaneously undergoing shear flow. This technique is called ‘flow-SANS’, which is only available at a handful of facilities in the world,” Fox said. “The experiments I will perform at ORNL as part of my SCGSR fellowship will be an integral part of my final doctoral dissertation and provide me with invaluable experience working at a DOE national laboratory.”

Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee