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Dr. Emily Pentzer was named a finalist for the 2022 Blavatnik National Award for Young Scientists in Physical Sciences & Engineering. Her research group has made many advances in applied science, particularly in the areas of thermal energy harvesting, carbon capture, energy storage and materials development. | Video: Texas A&M Engineering

Dr. Emily Pentzer, associate professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Department of Chemistry at Texas A&M University, was named a national finalist for the 2022 Blavatnik National Award for Young Scientists in Physical Sciences & Engineering.

Presented by the New York Academy of Sciences and the Blavatnik Family Foundation, the award recognizes faculty under the age of 42 who are making significant contributions to life sciences, chemistry and/or physical sciences and engineering.

“I don’t even know what emotion I could say I felt when I found out that I was a finalist for the Blavatnik award,” said Pentzer. “I felt a sense of gratefulness and excitement to tell my students. The hard work they’ve contributed, the time, the energy and the effort are paying off. While I am a finalist, I think (the award) really speaks to what my research group has accomplished.” 

Pentzer has an established history in materials science, engineering and chemistry, additionally highlighted by her affiliate position in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering at Texas A&M. After starting her research group at Case Western Reserve University in 2013, she and her team moved to Texas A&M in the summer of 2019.

Her research focuses on applied science inspired by societal problems. This includes research areas such as thermal energy harvesting, carbon capture, energy storage and materials development. In particular, her group uses additive manufacturing and 3D printing to design and develop materials that can help regulate temperatures in buildings.

“We input a significant amount of energy into controlling the temperature inside buildings — from air conditioning to turning on a furnace,” she said. “If we can create materials and structures capable of passively controlling temperature within buildings, this could reduce energy input. We can architect these materials into different structures and test them for specific properties that aid in temperature control.”

In addition to her research, Pentzer has served as a mentor to students, many of whom have pursued careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and medicine).

“I’m most proud of the students who have graduated from my group, who have not only developed as researchers, but in their laboratory techniques and how to discuss and convey their research results,” she said. “This has prepared them for positions in STEM fields, and many are part of the STEM workforce in the United States.”

Moving forward, she hopes to use this accomplishment as a catalyst to support the various research ventures her group is pursuing.

“Being a finalist for the Blavatnik award sets our group up for prolonged contributions to materials science and engineering,” Pentzer said. “I hope this honor aids in continually attracting top students and postdoctoral students to Texas A&M. I also hope this honor enables us to start collaborations with researchers across the university and nation.”

On a larger scale, Pentzer is using this achievement to help build a more inclusive, collaborative and integrated scientific community.

“I’m proud of the scientific community as we continue developing an environment where we can support people from all different backgrounds,” said Pentzer. “The support of honors like this helps us become more innovative, more creative, and provides the opportunity for us to really pursue solutions that aren’t possible within standard ways of thinking.”

The Blavatnik National Awards will be presented at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City on Tuesday, September 19.