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Two Chemistry Assistant Professors Selected for NSF CAREER Awards

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Dr. Melanie Reber and Dr. Christopher Newton, Assistant Professors in the UGA Department of Chemistry, have each received a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for their research. The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is a Foundation-wide activity that offers the National Science Foundation's most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. 

Dr. Melanie Reber will receive four years of funding to support her research in developing methods capable of measuring transient changes in the absorption spectra of molecules in the gas phase. Dr. Reber and her students will use optical enhancement cavities to increase the detection sensitivity of ultrafast transient absorption spectroscopy. Their discoveries could lead to a more complete understanding of conical intersections in vibrational excited states of organic molecules and radicals. As part of the educational component, Dr. Reber will explore how the use of art and music in teaching science impacts student learning and retention of students from all backgrounds. The students involved in the project will gain highly technical training in lasers, optics, and electronics relevant to a range of high technology fields including quantum technologies. To broaden participation and awareness of the interdisciplinary fields of physical chemistry and quantum science, Dr. Reber will teach a class for incoming first-year undergraduate students to introduce them to the science, technology, and application of quantum science. Learn more about Dr. Reber's work at her lab website,

Dr. Christopher Newton will receive five years of funding to support his work in designing novel molecular "building blocks" that improve the reactivity and versatility of molecular addition reactions. These addition reactions enable the rapid construction of complex organic molecules through the joining of two simpler fragments and this research aims to address long-standing challenges in the field that have limited its applications. The targeted reactions are expected to lead to a diverse set of cyclic structures containing carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen atoms. Detailed studies of the mechanisms underpinning these transformations will also be undertaken, helping to facilitate future discoveries. The outcomes of this research stand to have broad scientific and societal impacts including in the pharmaceutical, material, and agrochemical industries. The funded research will also support the training of a diverse body of undergraduate and graduate students in state-of-the-art chemistry techniques, helping to strengthen the future STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) workforce in the United States. In addition, Dr. Newton and his team will work to create and disseminate free, open-access chemistry educational tools to reduce barriers and broaden engagement in STEM. Finally, this award will support an outreach program, in collaboration with local high school teachers, to provide hands-on laboratory experience and career guidance to the greater Athens, GA community. Learn more about Dr. Newton's work at his lab website,


The National Science Foundation (NSF) funds research and education in science and engineering, through grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements. The Foundation accounts for about 20 percent of federal support to academic institutions for basic research. 



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