Two University of Chicago scientists win 2023 Energy Department Early Career Research awards

Two scientists with the University of Chicago have been selected for the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2023 Early Career Research Program. The awardees will receive five-year grants to investigate quantum field theory and electrochemical energy storage.  

The Department of Energy Office of Science’s Early Career Research Program is designed to bolster the nation’s scientific workforce by supporting exceptional researchers at the outset of their careers, when many scientists do their most formative work. Since its inception in 2010, the Early Career Research Program has made 868 awards. 

“Supporting America’s scientists and researchers early in their careers will ensure the U.S. remains at the forefront of scientific discovery and develops the solutions to our most pressing challenges,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “The funding announced today will allow the recipients the freedom to find the answers to some of the most complex questions as they establish themselves as experts in their fields.” 

Chibueze Amanchukwu is a Neubauer Family Assistant Professor in the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering focusing on electrochemical energy storage and conversion.  

He will receive $1M over five years to study how modulating the electrolyte behavior and solvation controls the electrocatalytic conversion of carbon monoxide to valuable fuels and chemicals. Success in this work will provide a pathway for clean energy deployment and will transform future chemical manufacturing.  

Amanchukwu's research group broadly combines data science, computation, and experiments to address challenges facing batteries and electrocatalytic conversions.  

Clay Córdova is a Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Physics. He is a theoretical physicist working on quantum field theory – a unifying framework for theoretical physics encompassing phenomena at a vast range of scales, from the shortest distances accessible to humanity during high energy collisions of elementary particles, to the longest distances visible in the faint universal afterglow of the big bang.  

Córdova's research is particularly focused on novel concepts of symmetry in quantum field theory. These ideas are applied to classify phases of matter, constrain the dynamics of strongly interacting systems, and to potentially shed new light on long-standing questions of naturalness in physics beyond the standard model. His work is interdisciplinary and has involved aspects of particle physics, condensed matter physics, and quantum gravity, as well as related topics in mathematics. The grant is $875,000 over five years.