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Zevalkink Receives NSF CAREER Award For Semiconductor Research

Three people looking at the sphere of the earth, the walls of the building are black.

A chemical engineering and materials science researcher at Michigan State University will use a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award to improve the targeted design of thermoelectric materials.

Headshot of Alexandra Zevalkink, she has hard hair in a ponytail and she is outside.

Alexandra Zevalkink is the 26th faculty member in the college to receive an NSF CAREER Award since 2010.

Assistant Professor Alexandra Zevalkink will employ a systematic, theory-guided approach to expand the current library of semiconductors known as Zintl compounds. The compounds are excellent in converting thermal energy into electrical energy. Her five-year $577,000 grant begins in 2021.

“This research will explore several routes to discovering new Zintl polymorphs,” she said. “Polymorphism, or the ability of a compound to form two or more crystal structure types, is an attractive solution because polymorphs allows us to experimentally determine how crystal structure impacts properties.”

The NSF project will also provide training and mentorship for graduate and undergraduate students who are involved in the synthesis and characterization of new materials.

“We’ll be leveraging some of MSU’s modern digital resources, such as the Planetarium, Science on a Sphere at the MSU Museum, and the 360º room at the central library to help students create an interactive exhibit on thermoelectric materials.

“The intuitive platforms will help us create new crystallography curriculum and will help students develop teaching skills using new technologies.”

Three photos put together.

Zevalkink’s NSF research will leverage MSU’s modern digital resources.

Zevalkink joined MSU in June 2016. Her research is focused on crystal growth of thermoelectric materials, structural chemistry in complex semiconductors, anisotropic thermal and electronic transport, high temperature thermal expansion, and elastic properties.

Her work is also funded by DOE Basic Energy Sciences and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

She studied novel thermoelectric materials during her PhD research at CalTech from 2008-13. Additionally, she was a postdoctoral fellow at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids in Germany before coming to MSU.

Zevalkink is the 26th faculty member in the College of Engineering to receive an NSF CAREER Award since 2010. NSF CAREER Awards support junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research and education. It is among NSF’s most prestigious honors.

Read more on her NSF research.

Patricia Mroczek via MSU Today

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