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Stanford Energy Postdoctoral Fellowship is a cross-campus effort of the Precourt Institute for Energy.

Our inaugural cohort

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Kyle Frohna  |  Energy Conversion & Storage - Batteries and Large-Scale Storage  |  Will Chueh - Materials Science & Engineering  |  Dan Congreve - Electrical Engineering

Bio: Kyle Frohna grew up in Ireland and studied nanoscience at Trinity College, Dublin. During this time, he developed a keen interest in developing technologies to combat climate change, in particular an emerging class of materials known as perovskites which have shown remarkable promise for low-cost solar cells. He pursued undergraduate research with Prof. Marco Bernardi at Caltech to atomically model perovskite properties and with Prof. Mike McGehee at Stanford to fabricate high efficiency solar cells. Kyle then earned his PhD at the University of Cambridge with Prof. Sam Stranks studying perovskite solar cells with advanced microscopy, understanding their microscopic properties to improve their macroscopic performance. For this work, Kyle was awarded a doctoral prize fellowship by the United Kingdom's Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council.

Postdoctoral research project: Nanoscale imaging of operating electrochemical devices for grid-scale energy storage.  Renewable energy systems require energy storage. Electrochemical systems (like batteries and hydrogen generation) are promising for this application but are messy on the nanoscale by design. Therefore, these systems must be understood on these length scales to achieve ultimate performance and long-term stability. As a postdoctoral fellow, Kyle will be combining his expertise of solar cells and microscopy with electrochemistry. His goal is to understand and overcome performance losses and degradation mechanisms in next-generation energy storage and fuel generation devices.  Back to Top.

John Holoubek   |   Energy Conversion & Storage - Electrocatalysis     Yi Cui - Materials Science & Engineering  |  Zhenan Bao and Jian Qin - Chemical Engineering

Bio: John Holoubek researches electrochemical systems for the sustainable storage and conversion of energy. He earned his bachelor's degree from Oregon State University in chemical engineering, and researched novel low-cost secondary battery systems in the Chemistry Department. At the U.C.-San Diego, John's PhD work aimed to describe and design the liquid electrolyte/electrode interphase in next-generation batteries employing high-energy chemistries. This technologically motivated, fundamental approach probed the effect of electrolyte chemistry and structure on device behavior through experimental and computational means. John won a NASA Space Technology Graduate Research Opportunities fellowship, an ARCS (Achievement Rewards for College Scientists) Foundation scholar award, and the 2022 Electrochemical  Society Battery Division's student research award.

Postdoctoral research project: Computationally-guided design of electrolyte structure and dynamics for advanced electrocatalytic performance.  Electrochemical catalysis promises to redefine our relationship to energy storage and conversion, paving the way for the sustainable production of fuels and commodity chemicals from sustainable feedstocks. These devices are composed of solid electrodes, which provide or remove electrons to or from reactants of interest from a liquid electrolyte in a region of space known as the interphase. The performance of these systems are therefore dependent on our ability to understand and control the chemistry, structure, and energetics of this interphase. Improved performance has traditionally achieved through alterations of the solid electrode material, however true control of the interphase relies on holistic design of both the electrode and electrolyte. John’s work at Stanford aims to predict, demonstrate, understand, and enable targeted improvements in electrocatalysis performance via chemical redesign of the liquid electrolyte.  Back to Top.

Sang Cheol Kim  |  Energy Conversion & Storage - Lithium metal batteries |  Steve Chu - Physics  |  Yan-Kai Tzeng - SLAC

Bio: Sang Cheol Kim went to Duke University for his undergraduate studies, with degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science (MEMS) and Chemistry. In college, Sang Cheol developed a deep interest in the energy transformation, which led him to join LG Chem, a large chemical and battery manufacturing company based in South Korea. After three years’ tenure at LG, as a battery cell engineer for automotive applications, he moved to Stanford, where he received master’s and PhD degrees in Materials Science and Engineering. He worked with Prof. Yi Cui to develop tools to probe the liquid electrolyte in batteries, and developed a new class of electrolytes called the high entropy electrolyte. Sang Cheol has also been active in the Stanford energy community as a student leader of the StorageX Initiative.

Postdoctoral research project: Ion-irradiated hBN nanomembranes for high-performance lithium metal batteries.  Metallic lithium is the ultimate anode material for lithium-based batteries, as it provides the highest energy density. However, taming the reactivity of lithium metal to suppress lithium dendrites has been a long-standing challenge. In recent studies conducted in Prof. Steven Chu’s group at Stanford, it was found that ion-irradiated hexagonal boron nitrides (hBNs), a 2-dimensional material, on the anode can effectively suppress dendrite formation. Ion-irradiated hBN can selectively transport Li+ through defect sites, while inhibiting transmission of other components in the electrolyte thereby suppressing side reactions. Sang Cheol will leverage his expertise in electrolyte engineering and electrochemistry to build high-performance lithium metal batteries. By optimizing the interplay between the electrolyte and the hBN nanomembrane, he aims to design long-cycling and high-energy lithium metal batteries. In addition, the remarkable effect of defects in hBN brings forth fascinating scientific questions: 1) What is the nature of the radiation-induced defect and how does it lead to the physicochemical properties? 2) What hBN-electrolyte interfacial phenomenon allows for the selective insertion and transport of Li+? Sang Cheol will deploy advanced characterization tools available in Stanford and SLAC to find answers to these fundamental questions. Back to Top.

Elias Lazarus  |   Policy, Economics & SocietyEconomic/Environment/Energy modeling  |  Lawrence Goulder - Economics   |   Ines Azevedo - Energy Science & Engineering

Bio: Eli Lazarus is an ecological economist focused on measuring, accounting for, and mitigating economic externalities. His recent work centres on Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) modeling. As part of his PhD, Eli worked with his advisor, David Anthoff, to create MPSGE.jl, a package to facilitate free and open-source, succinct CGE model building in the scientific programming language, Julia. MPSGE.jl is founded on the MPSGE GAMS subsystem created by Thomas Rutherford. Eli’s other work includes calculating the Genuine Progress Indicator for California and the U.S., and development and applications of the Ecological Footprint. Eli was the Research Lead at the Global Footprint Network non-profit think tank, where he led production and development on both a material-flow and multi-region input-output EF model. Eli is graduating with a PhD in Energy and Resources from UC Berkeley in 2023. He was an NSF Graduate Research and DS421 Fellow, and holds a MS from ERG at UCB, and a BA in Economics with the highest honours from SFSU.

Postdoctoral research project: Open-source CGE modeling for energy and climate questions.  Eli will be using the new, open-source Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) model-building package, MPSGE.jl, from his PhD work to test multiple questions that are central to issues of energy production and use, climate change, and the interactions between them. CGE models are particularly useful for testing the impacts of policies, shocks, or structural shifts because they are able to track changes through the complex interactions and interdependencies in the economy, society, and the environment. MPSGE.jl offers free, faster, simpler, more comprehensible and transparent model development and results, making CGE modeling accessible to a broader range of researchers, and enabling more rapid and detailed analysis. Applications of the package will also facilitate its development, to add features such as additional error checks and data integration, while also testing and improving the package’s robustness.  Back to Top.

Paulina Majchrzak  |  Energy Conversion & Storage - Batteries  |  Zhi-Xun Shen - Physics and Applied Physics  |  Harold Hwang - Photon Science at SLAC and Applied Physics

Bio: Paulina Majchrzak earned her undergraduate degree in chemical physics at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. During her studies, she completed a year-long internship at the UK Research & Innovation’s ultrafast laser user facility, Artemis. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in solid state physics at Aarhus University, Denmark. In her work, she travels to large-scale facilities around the world to investigate the electronic structures of quantum materials under non-equilibrium and operating conditions, in order to understand how their unique properties can be harnessed in modern electronic and optoelectronic devices. She also contributed to a construction and commissioning of a novel photoemission spectroscopy experimental station with a nanoscale beam spot at the ASTRID2 synchrotron in Aarhus. Paulina will begin her postdoctoral fellowship in Stanford's Department of Applied Physics in September 2023.

Postdoctoral research project: In-operando spectroscopic investigation of highly oxidised metal-oxide battery cathodes.  Current technologies for clean energy storage and conversion, such as rechargeable batteries and electrochemical catalysts, remain limited by the performance of transition metal-oxide components. Driving a battery at higher than conventional voltage provides an opportunity to substantially increase the amount of power it can store, by unlocking highly-oxidized oxygen and transition metal states. However, formation of such states has not been explored so far, preventing efficient material selection and optimization. As a Stanford Energy Postdoctoral Fellow, Paulina will develop a novel spectroscopic toolbox for studying electrochemical systems in operando, aiming to uncover the mechanism governing the electrochemical activity in rechargeable battery cathodes. Her project will be carried out under the guidance of Professors Zhi-Xun Shen and Harold Y. Hwang, and will combine materials synthesis, advanced x-ray characterization and theoretical calculations.  Back to Top.

Lev Tsypin  |  Renewable Energy - Sustainable biofuels  |  Ellen Yeh - Pathology  |  Arthur Grossman - Carnegie Institution

Bio: Lev Tsypin is a freshly minted PhD from Dianne Newman's lab at Caltech. His specialty is domesticating new microorganisms and developing tools for genetically engineering them. He believes that finding the right organisms for the job is a critical task for successfully combating climate change. Lev loves microbes, macrobes, and the world they build together. He also enjoys going out into nature, baking bread, playing board games, and herding cats.

Postdoctoral research project: Developing the green microalga Botryococcus braunii for sustainable biofuel production.  As a Stanford Energy Postdoctoral Fellow, Lev will work with Botryococcus braunii, a species of freshwater microscopic algae. This organism is unique among plants in that it secretes copious amounts of oil that is chemically analogous to petroleum. In fact, there is some geological evidence that ancient B. braunii may have contributed to our present-day oil reserves! This organism may be the key to developing a cheap and sustainable alternative to fossil fuels, but we do not yet have the tools to engineer or optimize B. braunii's oil production. Lev's work aims to bridge this gap.  Back to Top.

Luca Vialetto  |  Energy Conversion & Storage - Sustainable Nitrogen Fixation  Ken Hara - Aeronautics and Astronautics  Mark Cappelli - Mechanical Engineering

Bio: Luca Vialetto earned his master's degree in physics at the University of Padua (Italy) in 2017, with honour. His doctoral studies were conducted at the Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research (Eindhoven, the Netherlands), with focus on computational modeling of plasmas for conversion of CO2 into chemicals. He obtained the PhD in Applied Physics in November 2021 at the Eindhoven University of Technology, with honour. After that, he was employed as a postdoctoral researcher at Kiel University (Germany). Luca's research interests include plasma physics and chemistry, data driven models, and high performance computing. He is the recipient of the 2021 Student Award for Excellence given at the 74th Gaseous Electronics Conference and of the 2023 Rutherford Plasma Physics Communication Prize given by IOP.

Postdoctoral research project: Plasma-assisted nitrogen fixation in water.  Conventional processes for chemical fertilizers contribute to a large fraction of the global greenhouse gases emission. One alternative solution for decentralized and carbon neutral fertilizer production is to use weakly ionized gases, often called plasmas, which can be generated by renewable electricity. Putting ionized air in contact with water, plasma activated water (PAW) can produce reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (RONS) directly in water to improve seed germination and plant growth. This project focuses on development of novel theoretical and computational models for investigating the plasma-liquid interaction. In synergy with experiments, such models can help us understand the complex coupling of multiple physical and chemical processes that play an important role in RONS formation and scaling up the plasma-based energy applications.  Back to Top.

Yifan Wang  |  Sustainable Manufacturing - Steel  |  Leora Dresselhaus-Marias - Materials Science & Engineering  Xiaolin Zheng - Mechanical Engineering

Bio: Yifan Wang is earned a PhD and a master's degree, '22, in mechanical engineering, and a master's degree, '16, in petroleum engineering from Stanford. He earned a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from Tsinghua University. During doctoral research in computational mechanics with Prof. Wei Cai at Stanford, Yifan developed a stress-driven kinetics model of defect processes that governs the plastic deformation in metals and alloys. Yifan’s teaching and research was recognized as the Rising Star in Mechanical Engineering (2020, Berkeley University), and his doctoral dissertation won the Juan C. Simo Thesis Award from the Mechanics & Computation Group in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford. Yifan’s research interests lie in bridging the length- and time-scales for sustainable materials production and manufacturing, including developing new characterization tools and multiscale modeling and simulations.

Postdoctoral research project: Scale-bridging in sustainable steelmaking.  Yifan will address the challenges in the carbon-intensive steel-making industry, which contributes to approximately 10 percent of global CO2 emissions. The need to decarbonize the steel industry has become pressing due to the increasing demand for steel in renewable energy production. Supported by Prof. Leora Dresselhaus-Marais (MatSci) and Prof. Xiaolin Zheng (ME), Yifan will investigate hydrogen-based direct iron reduction (HyDIR), a promising solution for decarbonizing the iron-making process. This technology replaces currently widely used carbon-heavy reduction agents (cokes/coal) with green hydrogen to cut the majority (more than 75 percent) of the carbon footprint of steel-making. The main challenge of HyDIR is the scaling issue, where different physical and chemical processes at different length scales make models at each scale not transferable. This research aims to tackle this challenge by combining advanced characterization tools, data-driven statistical learning, kinetics modeling, and atomistic simulation. Specifically, Yifan's research will focus on bridging the gap in understanding how the microstructure evolution influences the mass transport and overall kinetics of the iron-reduction. The success of this research will establish a reliable workflow for testing the HyDIR reactions, and provide a unique opportunity to reveal the fundamental connections between different length scales and the intrinsic dimensionality of the HyDIR system to guide efficient design of the iron-production process.  Back to Top.