March 1999

Physicsí Mezzacappa, CTDís Lee win Presidential Early Career Awards


For the third year straight, two ORNL researchers have won Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers. The Physics Divisionís Tony Mezzacappa and the Chemical Technology Divisionís James W. Lee accepted the awards at the White House February 10.

Mezzacappa and Lee are also winners of DOE Young Independent Scientist Awards, which qualified them for the White House awards. Mezzacappa was cited for his work on the core collapse supernova explosion mechanism and generally for his outstanding research record in astrophysics, including numerous published papers in refereed journals and invited talks. He organized a major astrophysics conference in Oak Ridge.

His work has significantly advanced understanding of how core-collapse supernova explosions produce and disseminate most known elements in the universe. Mezzacappa leads the field in modeling computationally the transport of subatomic particles called neutrinos. Neutrinos are thought to provide the energy that drives core collapse supernova explosions. Mezzacappaís approach to handling this complex computational problem is now being adopted by modelers worldwide.

Leeís research efforts at ORNL focus on three areas: nanofabrication for high-technology molecular electronic devices; photosynthesis and metallocatalysis for hydrogen production by water splitting; and carbon dioxide sequestration to control global warming. Leeís expertise in photosynthetic reaction centers, which act as nanometer-scale biological photovoltaic cells where visible light triggers a reaction that generates voltage output, has contributed to ORNLís effort in developing the next generation of electronic devices and a clean energy resource.

Lee and Chem Techís Eli Greenbaum developed a technique called biomolecular welding in which metallic coatings, usually platinum, are applied to photosynthetic membranes to create biomolecular diodes on metal films. Leeís knowledge, techniques and methodology in the field has helped establish ORNL as an international center of excellence in photosynthetic research and nanofabrication.

Previous Early Career Award winners from ORNL are the Fusion Energy Divisionís David Newman and the Physics Divisionís David Dean in 1997 and the Physics Divisionís Michael Smith and the Environmental Sciences Divisionís Philip Jardine in 1996. The Life Sciences Divisionís Thomas Thundat was a Young Independent Scientist winner in 1996.