SUU Chemist Dr. Jacob Dean Awarded Prestigious NSF CAREER Grant

Published: September 18, 2023 | Author: Lawrence Mbaki | Read Time: 2 minutes

Laser Lab Experiment
Dr. Jacob Dean and chemistry student stand next to a molecular beam machine.

Associate Professor of Chemistry at Southern Utah University, Dr. Jacob Dean, has been awarded the prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Program (CAREER) grant. This grant supports early-career faculty with the potential to become academic role models in research and education. Dr. Dean secured the top honor of $500,000 over five years to support his research in enhancing light harvesting efficiency in organic materials.

“Dr. Dean's award is yet another indication of the quality of programs we have,” said Dr. Bill Heyborne, Dean of the College of Natural Sciences. “We are committed to providing the best experience possible for our undergraduate students, and this includes research opportunities with talented faculty like Dr. Dean.”

Dr. Dean will enlist three undergraduate research students annually to work alongside him in these efforts. These students will gain hands-on experience with laser spectroscopy and quantum chemistry, building a strong foundation for innovating in the areas of renewable energy and quantum information science. This experience will allow the students to become better prepared to enter the workforce or further their graduate education.

Jaren Meikle, a senior majoring in chemistry, has already participated in Dr. Dean's laser lab and is eager to extend his involvement.

“This project has helped me to apply and internalize concepts discussed in my chemistry classes,” said Meikle. “I have found that I can only learn so much in a lecture setting, and mastery of a topic in most scientific disciplines requires hands-on learning. My chemistry classes have become easier now that I can apply what I learn in my research to my coursework, and it makes my classes more interesting as well.” 

Dr. Dean's journey to securing this award was not without challenges. A previous attempt at securing the grant had resulted in rejection. Reflecting on this experience, he shared, “A part of yourself as a scholar goes into a proposal like this, so negative reviews or rejection can be disheartening and really humbling.”

Despite this challenge, Dr. Dean pressed forward knowing how this kind of research experience would help his current and future students if secured. He worked closely with the Sponsored Programs, Agreements, Research, and Contracts (SPARC) Office to refine and update his subsequent winning proposal. 

The Walter Maxwell Gibson College of Natural Sciences aims to create a customized, stimulating science learning environment at SUU. The spectacular beauty and diversity of habitats within a 50-mile radius of Cedar City add to the quality of the exemplary programs offered. 

Tags: College of Natural Sciences SPARC FacStaff STEM Chemistry

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