Oak Ridge National Laboratory


News Release

Media Contact: Bill Cabage (cabagewh@ornl.gov)
Communications and External Relations


President cites ORNL's Gary A. Baker as leading early career scientist

Gary A. Baker has been named to receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., July 10, 2009 — Oak Ridge National Laboratory researcher Gary A. Baker has been named to receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). Baker is one of 12 Department of Energy scientists to receive the presidential award.

Baker is considered a leader in the relatively new field of ionic liquids, which have potential applications to emerging energy-related technologies including solar cells, lithium batteries, fuel cells and biomass processing.

"These extraordinarily gifted young scientists and engineers represent the best in our country," President Barack Obama said. "With their talent, creativity, and dedication, I am confident that they will lead their fields in new breakthroughs and discoveries and help us use science and technology to lift up our nation and our world."

Baker's pioneering work in materials science and environmentally responsible chemistry has been recognized nationally and internationally. As author or co-author of over 100 publications with more than 2000 citations to his credit, he is a leading expert in the synthesis and application of green solvents, including supercritical fluids and ionic liquids, a new type of solvent.

"Gary Baker has the extremely rare ability to make outstanding contributions to numerous unrelated disciplines at the same time. This award is an indicator of the tremendous future Gary has in research at ORNL," said ORNL Director Thom Mason.

Baker's accomplishments include the invention of an innovative and simple method for producing frozen ionic liquid functional nanoparticles in variable sizes, the co-development of improved approaches for measuring properties of ionic liquids that are otherwise difficult to obtain, and the development of sensing methodologies with potential applications ranging from clinical glucose assays to biomass process monitoring. His design and synthesis of a series of bio-designer ionic liquids are expected to play a significant role in biomass processes, including the breakdown of cellulose into sugars for the production of ethanol, as well as biocatalysis and bioremediation.

Currently working in the Nanomaterials Chemistry group of ORNL's Chemical Sciences Division, Baker joined ORNL in 2005 as a Eugene P. Wigner Fellow following a postdoctoral appointment at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He received his doctorate from the University at Buffalo, the State University of New York.

Baker's awards and recognitions include the American Chemical Society Division of Analytical Chemistry Graduate Fellowship and the Frederick Reines Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellowship. Five of his papers have been featured on scientific journal covers.

He lives in Knoxville with his wife, Sheila, and two children, Kali and Kaden.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy.