Marco Caricato, assistant professor of chemistry and active researcher at the CEBC, was selected to receive a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award. This marks the 15th CAREER award for chemistry faculty at the University of Kansas.
The prestigious, five-year, $625,000 award recognizes junior faculty who are rising stars in research and education. The award will support Caricato’s research to develop new theoretical models and computer software to simulate how light interacts with solid chiral materials.
Chiral objects are mirror images of each other—like left and right hands. All sorts of molecules can have this trait, including amino acids, sugars and DNA. Caricato’s models will help scientists characterize and design new chiral materials that could be useful for electronics, catalysis and many other applications.
Caricato also has plans for an ambitious outreach program. His goal: bring computational chemistry into Kansas high school classrooms.
“Computer simulations have enormous educational potential in this technological age,” said Caricato.
By collaborating with local high school teachers, Caricato plans to create activities that engage students in experiences not currently available in high school classrooms. He started this project as part of the CEBC’s NSF-funded Research Experiences for Teachers program. Working with Stan Spurlin, chemistry teacher at Olathe East High School, the team has begun developing novel tools that allow pre-college-aged students to explore bonding and intermolecular forces.
Ultimately, this project will help inspire the next generation of rising stars in science, technology, and engineering careers.