By ACS Green Chemistry Institute
Establishing a successful research group is challenging, particularly in the first two years. In 2023, the ACS Early Career Postdoctoral (ECP) Faculty Bridge Grant awarded two-year funding to six postdoctoral fellows. These grant recipients will join postdoctoral fellows or faculty members who are in the first nine months of their appointments and wish to start independent research careers. Such support is crucial to the development of robust research programs as well as ensuring professional development and mentorship opportunities for the grantees. The program targets the advancement of sustainability research and the integration of more green chemistry content into course curricula.
Arthur J. Shih was one of the inaugural winners selected from a competitive applicant pool. As a postdoctoral scholar at Northwestern University, Arthur is investigating electrochemistry as a solution for transitioning to a circular economy.
“My future research group will study how thermal-electro-chemistry can enable the commercialization of sustainable technologies, shifting society’s dependence from fossil resources towards air, water, waste, and biomass,” he explained. “Our approach involves the synthesis of well-defined materials to elucidate chemical mechanisms using kinetic probes.”
His research advisor, Dr. Sossina M. Haile, remarked on how his project, “Electrochemical Refinement of Recycled Iron via Selective Copper Dissolution” is addressing a crucial climate issue.
“Arthur has proposed to tackle a major source of greenhouse gas emission: processing of subpar recycled iron into useful iron,” she explained. “If Arthur is successful, it will indeed have significant impact on our global trajectory as modern society comes dangerously close to overheating our planet.”
Arthur plans to address these issues in his teaching as well. His laboratory and upper-level courses will include life cycle analysis, design for reduced environmental impacts, and navigation of economic pressures.
“The most important message I hope to pass on to my students is that for greener products to displace carbon-intensive products, the final cost must be equal to or cheaper, which can be driven by governmental policies and incentives,” Arthur said.
Sustainability has remained a thread throughout Arthur’s research career because, he explained, it’s not only interesting but also deeply consequential. His broad perspective on sustainability has been supported and encouraged by his advisor.
“The joy [of] having had Arthur in my group is that he already appreciated the value of fundamental research with impactful applications to sustainability," said Dr. Haile. "I did not have to instill these values, only nurture them. In that spirit, I ask researchers in my group two questions – ‘If you are successful, will it matter?’ and ‘Will the answers you find today outlive the particular technology you envision?’” Arthur, she says, has taken these questions to heart.
“To understand [the] potential for impact, one must zoom out from the world of atoms and molecules to the world of industry, economics, supply chains, and policy,” Arthur said. “We are living in a historical era where changes in the way we produce, use, and store energy and chemicals will influence humanity’s trajectory on this pale blue dot.”
Join us in whole-heartedly congratulating Arthur on this exciting achievement! Learn more about ACS Sustainability Grants and how you can apply on the ACS website.
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