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Three grad students get Department of Energy fellowships

Three Cornell graduate students have received Department of Energy fellowship awards, which are designed to strengthen the nation's scientific workforce.

The program, which provides up to $50,500 per year up to three years, encourages students to pursue such graduate degrees as physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics and engineering. The fellowships are supported in part by $12.5 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

Nicholas Eggert, who studies experimental particle physics with professor Jim Alexander, is working on the Compact Muon Solenoid, which is one of the particle detectors at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva, Switzerland. Eggert's research involves studying the most fundamental subatomic particles in physics by observing what results from the proton-proton collisions created by the LHC. In particular, he is focused on the possibility of producing dark matter and is working on methods to study its properties. Eggert's project was funded through ARRA.

Jason Kahn, who studies biological engineering with associate professor Dan Luo, is exploring the evolution of synergistic enzyme systems using enhanced cell-free protein production. Such systems can be applied to the more efficient breakdown of cellulose for biofuel production. Kahn is also interested in materials and methods toward creating novel and cheaper solar power solutions.

Alex Mellnik, who studies solid state physics with professor Dan Ralph, is starting a new project on a recently discovered class of materials called topological insulators. Electrically insulating in bulk, the materials have special electronic states on the surface that allow them to conduct electricity. Mellnik's work will involve electronic transport measurements to study the surface states of the materials. Mellnik's award is also through the ARRA.

To date, the ARRA has provided Cornell with 156 awards totaling $111.6 million.

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Blaine Friedlander