Sandia National Laboratories has named College of Chemistry alumna, Mercedes Taylor ( Ph.D., Chem, 2018) and Chen Wang its first Jill Hruby Fellows. The honorees have each been awarded a three-year postdoctoral fellowship in technical leadership, comprising national security-relevant research with an executive mentor.
Susan Seestrom, chief research officer and associate laboratories director for advanced science and technology, will mentor both Taylor and Wang. "Our goal is to provide our fellows with a stimulating opportunity that will allow them to exercise their clear talent and leadership potential," Seestrom said. "I look forward to them coming on board."
The Jill Hruby Fellowship is meant to encourage women to consider leadership in national security science and engineering. Hruby, the first woman to lead a national security laboratory, served as Sandia's director from 2015 to 2017
About Mercedes Taylor:
Working as a chemist for the National Institutes of Health prior to graduate school in the Department of Chemistry at UC Berkeley, Taylor found herself drawn to the idea of a career in government research. "I loved the ability to pursue promising projects regardless of a corporate bottom line while still working in an environment of cutting-edge professional research," she said. Taylor went on to earn a doctorate in chemistry from the College of Chemistry.
Her ideal career path, she added, leads to a top position at a national laboratory, where she would head research that supports national security and global peace. An opportunity to work at Sandia seemed a perfect fit. "The Jill Hruby Fellowship will give me the chance to establish that career."
Over the next three years, her research will aim to develop new porous plastics that purify water by soaking up ions -- electrically charged atoms and molecules -- with an emphasis on negatively charged ions, called anions. Materials that can target a particular ion selectively, even in the presence of many other ions, could be especially useful to national security, by identifying chemical warfare agents, radioactive material or harmful natural impurities, like arsenic in a water sample. Current technologies to remove various ions from water on an industrial scale leave much to be desired, so the work could also find practical use in desalination plants.
As climate change and population growth are projected to make drinking water scarcer globally over the coming decades, Taylor hopes her work will provide relief and security.