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Research News

UB materials chemist receives Sloan Fellowship

By CHARLOTTE HSU

Published February 21, 2013

Eva Zurek

Eva Zurek

Eva Zurek, assistant professor of chemistry, has received a Sloan Research Fellowship, which provides leading early-career investigators with a two-year, $50,000 award to conduct research of their choice.

The Sloan Research Fellowships aim to “stimulate fundamental research by early-career scientists and scholars of outstanding promise,” according to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which disburses the awards. Fellows, who were notified of their selection on Feb. 14, were chosen by a committee of distinguished scholars.

Zurek, a theoretical chemist, is one of 126 researchers in the United States and Canada to receive the recognition this year. She is a member of UB’s recently designated New York State Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics, and her work focuses on using supercomputers to predict the structures and properties of novel materials.

Particular interests include modeling how organic molecules interact with the surfaces of metals and modeling the catalytic reactions that result in plastics production. This research could lead to such technological advances as better organic light-emitting diodes for smartphones and TV screens, and new types of plastics that possess unique and desirable properties.

Zurek’s research group also has written an algorithm called XtalOpt that enables users to predict the crystal structures of materials. The team is using this algorithm to predict hydrogen-rich compounds that may be superconducting metals under pressure.

“Dr. Zurek’s award recognizes the strength of her research program and the great potential that other scholars see in her work,” says Alexander N. Cartwright, vice president for research and economic development. “Having joined UB in 2009, Dr. Zurek exemplifies the energy and research excellence that our newest faculty members are bringing to the university.”

Michael R. Detty, professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry, called Zurek “an emerging leader in our department—not only scientifically, but in all aspects of the academic endeavor. Her research in computational materials prediction is destined to have high impact in materials research in areas including superconductivity, catalysis, energy and molecular self-assembly.”

Prior to joining the UB faculty, Zurek conducted postdoctoral research at Cornell University and the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research. She holds a PhD from the University of Stuttgart in Germany and a BS and MS from the University of Calgary in Canada.

The computers used by the Zurek research group are stored and maintained at , the Center for Computational Research, UB’s state-of-the-art supercomputing facility.