New funding awarded to two early career scientists


Credit: Wes Agresta / Argonne National Laboratory

Two scientists from Argonne earn prestigious Early Career Research Program awards.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced that two scientists from its Argonne National Laboratory will be receiving funding through the Early Career Research Program of the Office of Science. The awardees are Ahmet Uysal, assistant chemist in the Chemical Sciences and Engineering division, and Kibaek Kim, assistant computational mathematician in the Mathematics and Computer Science division.

For the country’s national laboratories and universities to address the most challenging questions we face, they must hire and nourish scientists who are still early in their career. To assist them in that endeavor, DOE launched the Early Career Research Program award, now in its 10th year. Recipients of the award from national laboratories earn $2.5 million over five years to advance their research. Selections are made on the basis of a rigorous peer review by outside scientific experts. This year, DOE selected only 27 scientists from national laboratories for this prestigious honor.

“This program encourages early career scientists like Dr. Uysal and me to think big and long term in developing innovative research projects that advance the mission of Argonne and the DOE Office of Science,” — Kibaek Kim, assistant computational mathematician, Argonne Mathematics and Computer Science division.

“By investing in the next generation of scientific researchers, we are supporting lifelong discovery science to fuel the nation’s innovation system,” said Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.

With his research award, Uysal will be addressing one of the fundamental challenges in the separation of chemical components in complex mixtures. Uysal’s focus will be on experimentally understanding the fundamental chemistry and physics behind membrane and sorbent technologies for cleaning the millions of tons of underground water contaminated with heavy elements, including lanthanides and radioactive actinides.

In particular, his research program will be investigating the molecular-scale interactions behind the separation of heavy-metal ions from contaminated groundwater with an advanced membrane technology made of graphene oxide, a two-dimensional nanomaterial. Uysal’s research will utilize the high brilliance X-rays provided by the Advanced Photon Source, a DOE Office of Science User Facility, as well as the specially built radiological suite in the new Materials Design Laboratory, both located at Argonne.

“More broadly, this research program could be an important step toward achieving mechanistic control of solid/aqueous interfaces and ion transport in complex and extreme conditions relevant to energy and the environment,” said Uysal.

Kim will be tackling yet another big challenge — the modernization of the U.S. electric grid. This modernization involves incorporating smart grid sensors, energy storage, microgrids and distributed energy resources such as solar photovoltaic panels.

Kim’s research program will address the technical challenges in the design and control of cyber-physical systems. Conventional approaches make the restrictive assumption that the modelers know the underlying probability distribution of uncertain model parameters. The proposed research will be developing data-driven optimization models and algorithms that can account for the uncertainty from uncertain probability distributions.

“Our aim is to devise parallel algorithms and solvers that are statistically robust to changes of the probability distribution and can exploit advanced computing architectures,” Kim said. Essential to the approach is the use of massive amounts of data to achieve greater solution performance.

Kim plans to focus on two design and control applications: resilient smart distribution systems and distributed learning on edge-computing networks.

“This program encourages early career scientists like Dr. Uysal and me to think big and long term in developing innovative research projects that advance the mission of Argonne and the DOE Office of Science,” said Kim.


Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit

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