Texas A&M: Two Texas A&M Faculty Receive Prestigious TAMEST Edith And Peter O’Donnell Awards

Two Texas A&M University faculty have been selected by The Academy of Medicine, Engineering, and Science of Texas (TAMEST) to receive 2022 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards, one of the highest honors for rising stars in the Texas research community.

Texas A&M chemist Sarbajit Banerjee and Texas A&M chemical engineer Jodie L. Lutkenhaus are among four rising researchers across the state being recognized this year for their efforts to address the essential role that science and technology play in society and for work that meets the highest standards of exemplary professional performance, creativity and resourcefulness.

“Texas is at the forefront of innovation, thanks to the incredible discoveries by researchers such as these,” said 2022 TAMEST Board President and National Academy of Engineering Member David E. Daniel. “The TAMEST Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards highlight the groundbreaking research taking place in Texas, and TAMEST is proud and grateful to highlight their transformational work and honor the impacts it will have on our state and communities.”

Established in 2006 and named for the late philanthropists and steadfast TAMEST supporters Edith and Peter O’Donnell, the annual awards recognize outstanding achievements by young investigators in medicine, engineering, science and technology innovation. To date, over $1 million has been awarded to more than 60 recipients, including 15 who have gone on to be elected to the National Academies — four within the last two years.

Banerjee (science) and Lutkenhaus (engineering) will be celebrated along with their fellow 2022 O’Donnell Award winners Jason McLellan of The University of Texas at Austin (medicine) and Ashers Partouche of Schlumberger Limited (technology innovation) at the 2022 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards Ceremony, set for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 12, at the Westin Riverwalk Hotel in San Antonio. All recipients will give presentations on their research preceding the award ceremony as part of the TAMEST 2022 Annual Conference, Forward Texas: Imperatives for Health, which runs from Jan. 11-13 in San Antonio and is chaired by Texas A&M Health Professor and National Academy of Medicine Member Dr. Nancy W. Dickey.

2022 marks the first time in the 15-year history of the prestigious awards that Texas A&M has multiple recipients. Previous winners include former Texas A&M chemist Paul Cremer in Science (2010) and former Texas A&M engineer Haiyan Wang in Engineering (2015).

“Texas A&M prides itself on attracting and fostering the best and brightest researchers,” said Texas A&M President M. Katherine Banks. “We are proud of Drs. Sarbajit Banerjee and Jodie L. Lutkenhaus and congratulate them for being recognized as exemplary researchers as TAMEST O’Donnell Award recipients.”

A fourth Texas A&M faculty member, Distinguished Professor of Aerospace Engineering and Hagler Institute for Advanced Study Founding Director John L. Junkins, will be presented with the 2022 Kay Bailey Hutchison Distinguished Service Award during the conference’s opening reception, set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 11.

Learn more about Texas A&M’s 2022 O’Donnell Awards recipients below:

View a video on Jodie L. Lutkenhaus’ groundbreaking research.

Jodie L. Lutkenhaus, Axalta Coating Systems Chair, 2019 Presidential Impact Fellow and Professor in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering at Texas A&M University, is the recipient of TAMEST’s 2022 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Engineering. She was chosen for her innovation and development of redox active polymers for metal-free energy storage and smart coatings.

By developing new molecular-scale characterization methods, Lutkenhaus discovered fundamental connections among polymer dynamics, properties and performance. Specifically, through the use of an electrochemical quartz crystal microbalance with a dissipation monitoring device, she developed new ways to closely observe the response of polymers in some of the most challenging environments. In 2021, in collaboration with Texas A&M Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, TAMEST Member and National Academy of Sciences Member Karen Wooley, Lutkenhaus demonstrated the world’s first degradable peptide battery.

These types of discoveries have led to new designs for metal-free organic batteries that will address society’s needs for materials that are earth-abundant and recyclable or degradable. Her concept of a 100-percent polymer battery, which would steer battery production away from cobalt and other precious metals, has the potential to charge and discharge much faster than traditional versions.

“Imagine a battery you never have to throw away, one that does not depend on precious metals to work, and charges more efficiently than conventional methods,” said her nominator, Mark A. Barteau, a professor in the Texas A&M Departments of Chemical Engineering and of Chemistry and a member of the National Academy of Engineering. “This rapid charging technology could dramatically change the way batteries are developed and how things – like electric vehicles – are used today. We are just astounded at the ingenuity and innovation Dr. Lutkenhaus shows on a daily basis and are thankful to have her leadership here at Texas A&M mentoring the next generation of groundbreaking researchers.”

View a video on Banerjee’s groundbreaking research.

Sarbajit Banerjee, a Davidson Chair in Science, 2019 Chancellor’s EDGES Fellow and Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University, is the recipient of TAMEST’s 2022 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award in Science. He was chosen for his utilization of solid-state chemistry and materials science to impact the future of new technologies in energy conversion, energy storage, computing and even artificial intelligence.

Banerjee’s work, which transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries, focuses primarily on the interplay of atomistic structure and electronic structure. He has developed an impressive set of predictive design rules for identifying viable metastable compounds, established a powerful toolbox of chemical methods for synthesizing new structures that greatly expanded the current fundamental understanding of his field, and explored how unusual structural motifs manifested in these compounds can be harnessed to realize new functions.

Just by tweaking the kind of bonding that goes on and where the electrons reside, Banerjee’s team found you can get entirely new forms of matter and can gain completely new functions when a polymorph is switched for another. In his quest to develop new modes of energy efficient computing, Banerjee’s group capitalized on materials with tunable electronic instabilities to achieve what’s known as neuromorphic computing, or computing designed to replicate the brain’s unique capabilities and unmatched efficiencies.

“Dr. Banerjee is an outstanding young chemist who has developed a variety of metastable compounds that promise to revolutionize several cutting-edge technologies,” said his nominator, George M. Pharr, the Erle Nye ’59 Chair in the Texas A&M Department of Materials Science and Engineering and a member of the National Academy of Engineering. “His work established that composition does not limit structure, rather structure can often be controlled independently from composition. He is also just a wonderful person who is always there to help guide his students.”

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