UB Chemistry Alumna Wins Gold Award for Dissertation Research on Nanomaterial

Recognition is the highest honor the Materials Research Society bestows on graduate students

Release Date: December 7, 2011


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UB PhD graduate Luisa Whittaker has won the Materials Research Society's prestigious Graduate Student Gold Award.

Sarbajit Banerjee and Luisa Whittaker have been partnering on research since 2007, the year they both joined UB.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- University at Buffalo PhD graduate Luisa Whittaker has won the Materials Research Society's (MRS) Graduate Student Gold Award, which recognizes excellence in academic achievements and materials research.

The Gold Award is the highest honor that MRS bestows on graduate students, and Whittaker was one of only six graduate researchers to receive the award at the 2011 MRS Fall Meeting last week. Judges selected her from a pool of 195 applicants.

Whittaker, a Fulbright scholar who completed her PhD in chemistry this year, was lead author of seven papers in peer-reviewed journals while studying at UB.

Her dissertation research focused on vanadium oxide, a material that could one day find utility in energy-efficient 'smart' windows that reflect heat only on hot days. As a key member of an interdisciplinary research team, Whittaker conducted research that helped demonstrate that preparing vanadium oxide as a nanomaterial instead of in bulk gave it properties that could be useful in smart windows and ultrafast microelectronics.

"I am very excited to bring this award to UB, as the school that gave me the opportunity to pursue my doctorate degree," said Whittaker, who is now a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton University. "On the other hand, I feel very pleased to see that the research performed at UB has impacted the science community and can also be comparable to research efforts performed at top Ivy League universities."

Whittaker, an international student from Panama, began her studies at UB in 2007. She completed her PhD in just four years.

Her success has been a point of pride for Sarbajit Banerjee, the assistant professor of chemistry who served as her mentor and dissertation advisor. Banerjee also joined UB in 2007, and Whittaker was his very first student.

"I am really, really proud," Banerjee said after learning that Whittaker had won the Gold Award, which he described as the highest honor a student can receive in recognition of materials research. "It is incredible that she has won this award. The award is a testament to her incredible intellect and creativity, as well as her remarkable work ethic."

Besides receiving the Graduate Student Gold Award, Whittaker also took second place in the 2011 MRS Fall Meeting's "Science as Art" competition, winning for an image entitled "A Perfect Night Under the Microscope."

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

Related Links:

About the Materials Research Society Graduate Student Awards: http://www.mrs.org/gsa/

Related Stories:

New Research Brings Us Closer to Windows That Block Heat Only on Hot Days: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/12460

Faces and Voices of UB, Sarbajit Banerjee and Luisa Whittaker: http://bit.ly/uFPuIb

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