Surendranath and Willard Named 2017 Cottrell Scholars

Danielle Randall
February 22, 2017

Paul M. Cook Career Development Assistant Professor Yogesh Surendranath and Assistant Professor Adam P. Willard have been named 2017 Cottrell Scholars by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA).

Surendranath and Willard are two of 24 top early career academic scientists selected to receive this designation, which comes with a $100,000 reward for each recipient for research and teaching. The Cottrell Scholar Award develops outstanding teacher-scholars who are recognized by their scientific communities for the quality and innovation of their research programs and their academic leadership skills. In addition, the award provides entry into a national community of outstanding scholar-educators who produce significant research and educational outcomes.

“The Cottrell Scholar (CS) program champions the very best early career teacher-scholars in chemistry, physics and astronomy by providing these significant discretionary awards,” said RCSA Senior Program Director Silvia Ronco.


Ronco added the program is designed to foster synergy among faculty at major American research universities and primarily undergraduate institutions.


Cottrell Scholars engage in an annual networking event, providing them an opportunity to share insights and expertise through the Cottrell Scholar Collaborative. This year’s event will be held in mid-July in Tucson, Arizona., and is expected to draw about 100 top educators from around the U.S.


“Outstanding candidates are admitted to the ranks of Cottrell Scholars through a stringent peer-review process based on their innovative research proposals and education programs,” Ronco said. 


Cottrell Scholar Award proposals contain a research plan, an educational plan and a clear statement on how the CSA will help applicants become truly outstanding teacher-scholars and future academic leaders. The project plans must be for a period of three years. The ability of applicants to mount a strong and innovative research program and achieve excellence in education and their potential leadership skills are key criteria in the selection of the awards.


Professor Surendranath's proposal was entitled Bridging Heterogeneous and Molecular Electrocatalysis: Inner-Sphere Electron Transfer at Graphite-Conjugated Molecular Active Sites.  Research in the Surendranath Group focuses on the investigation and manipulation of chemical reactions occurring at solid-liquid interfaces. In particular, the Group aims to use electricity to rearrange chemical bonds by controlling interfacial reactivity at the molecular level. The chemistry of these interfaces is at the heart of nearly all contemporary challenges in renewable energy storage and utilization in a wide variety of devices ranging from batteries, to fuel cells, to electrolyzers and, therefore, addressing these challenges is essential for enabling a low-carbon energy future.


Professor Willard's proposal was entitled Simulating the Effects of Nanoscale Disorder on Energy Transport in Molecular Semiconductors. The Willard Group uses theory and simulation to explore the role of molecular fluctuation in a variety of chemical phenomena. They are particularly interested in systems for which a mean field approach, i.e., the averaging out of molecular-level detail, fails to reproduce experimental results. This is often a consequence of complex molecular scale behavior such as collectivity, spatial or dynamic heterogeneity, or the coupling of fast and slow time or length scales, which can give rise to interesting and unexpected macroscopic phenomena.