Four CU-Boulder Professors Win $750,000 Department of Energy Early Career Research Awards

Published: Jan. 20, 2010

Four University of Colorado at Boulder professors will receive $750,000 grants under the Department of Energy's new Early Career Research Program -- the most awards received by any university in the nation.

The four recipients are Michael Hermele, Alysia Marino and Tobin Munsat of the department of physics and Arthi Jayaraman of the department of chemical and biological engineering.

The four assistant professors were among 69 scientists selected from 1,750 applicants at U.S. universities and DOE national laboratories. They will receive five-year research grants of at least $150,000 per year under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The awards were announced last week by Energy Secretary Stephen Chu and Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter.

CU-Boulder's four awards were the most received by any U.S. university. Nearest to CU's total were the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Princeton University, which each received three.

"That CU-Boulder would distinguish itself nationally with more early career awards than any other university in the nation is a great tribute to the quality faculty and outstanding programs that bring the best minds to CU-Boulder," said Provost Stein Sture. "We are transforming the definition of research and scholarship, and this award is evidence that our efforts are paying off for a generation of young faculty."

Three of the recipients are in the CU-Boulder department of physics. Hermele conducts research in theoretical condensed matter physics and joined the physics faculty in 2007, Marino does research in experimental high-energy physics and joined the physics faculty in 2009 and Munsat does research in experimental plasma physics and joined the physics faculty in 2004.

"This is truly an outstanding accomplishment," said Professor Paul Beale, chair of the physics department. "Early career awards are designed to assist the best young scientists in the nation to make innovative and groundbreaking discoveries. Winning three awards in the department of physics is a sign of the success we have had in recruiting the best young scientists in the world to join our faculty. Nine of our junior faculty members have won early career awards from federal funding agencies since 2000."

Jayaraman investigates nanoscale phenomena that govern the physical properties of materials and is seeking to improve the efficiency of organic photovoltaic devices. She joined the department of chemical and biological engineering in 2008.

Under the program, university-based researchers will receive at least $150,000 per year to cover summer salary and research expenses. To be eligible, a researcher must be an untenured, tenure-track assistant professor at a U.S. academic institution or a full-time employee at a DOE national laboratory who received their Ph.D. within the past 10 years.

Selection was based on peer review by outside scientific experts. The final details for each project award are subject to final contract negotiations between DOE and the awardees.

"Strong support of scientists in the early career years is crucial to renewing America's scientific workforce and ensuring U.S. leadership in discovery and innovation for many years to come," Chu said.

A list of the 69 awardees, their institutions, and titles of research projects is available at

Department of Energy's Early Career Research Program awardees from the University of Colorado at Boulder are, clockwise from top left, Michael Hermele, Tobin Munsat, Alysia Marino and Arthi Jayaraman. (Photo by Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado)