Chad Risko has been named a 2018 Cottrell Scholar. He is an assistant professor of chemistry in the University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences and a researcher with the Center for Applied Energy Research. Risko received his Ph.D. from Georgia Tech in 2005, working with Jean-Luc Brédas in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry.
Awarded by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA), Cottrell scholarships recognize early-career scholars in chemistry, physics, and astronomy. Risko is one of two dozen academic scientists to receive the honor this year, which comes with a $100,000 award for research and teaching.
Cottrell Scholars focus on the dual role of the teacher-scholar. Through his Cottrell award, Risko will develop a course-based undergraduate research experience (CURE) focusing on the application of computing and data science in chemistry. Although the concept of big data seems to be everywhere, it is noticeably absent in the undergraduate chemistry curriculum, Risko said.
“The CURE will engage students in primary chemical research to build knowledge in scientific computing, big-data analysis, and visualization through team-based scientific inquiry,” Risko said. “The aim is for students to develop skills and knowledge that will enable them to prosper in careers, even those beyond traditional chemistry, that are evolving at a rapid pace.”
Risko’s research aims to discover fundamental connections among the chemical and physical phenomena that determine the performance of complex synthetic materials in various applications, including flexible electronics and power generation and storage. Specifically, his research project for the Cottrell scholarship – “High Energy Density Metal Oxides for Energy Storage: In Silico Electrochemistry to Control Interface Chemistry” – will allow his group to expand their theoretical and computational chemistry studies of chemical reactions in batteries.
“Advances in battery technologies have revolutionized how we communicate with each other, the information we have at our fingertips, the types of energy sources we use, and, increasingly, how we move from place to place," Risko said. "Our aim is to develop computational approaches that allow us to better understand aspects of the chemistry taking place in batteries so as to suggest new materials that may offer more power, longer lifetimes, and improved safety.”