Chemical Engineering Assistant Professor Gets $500,000 NSF Award

Chris Ellison, chemical engineering assistant professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, has received a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for integrating polymer research and education.

Chris Ellison
Dr. Chris Ellison

The prestigious award grants Ellison $500,000 for five years of research and educational initiatives on the motion of polymers, long chain molecules, and implications for their use in nanotechnology applications.

"Our fundamental research will provide better understanding of polymer physics to improve advanced materials design," said Ellison. "In everyday terms, this research will improve things like hard drive lubricant, to make data storage more reliable, and microelectronic manufacturing, to manufacture smaller, more efficient electronic components."

About 500 CAREER grants are awarded out of more than 3,000 proposals. Awardees, selected through peer review, are those that best exemplify the role of teacher-scholar by combining cutting-edge research with educational outreach.

Ellison will fund a program, partnered with UTeachEngineering, to pair graduate students with high school teachers to conduct polymers research and develop curricula to engage at-risk and economically disadvantaged students in math, science and engineering. UTeachEngineering is a project of the Cockrell School of Engineering and UTeach Natural Sciences that prepares university students and in-service teachers to deliver pioneering engineering curriculum.

Ellison runs the laboratory for nanostructured polymeric materials in the Department of Chemical Engineering. Ellison's group is composed of 11 postdoctoral researchers and graduate students and 11 undergraduate students who study the design, synthesis, characterization and processing of nanostructured polymeric materials.

"My team's most important goal is to use this award to increase the interest of society and students across all levels in science, technology, engineering and math," Ellison said.