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4 LSU Professors Receive National Science Foundation’s Most Prestigious Early Career Scholarship | Education

Four LSU assistant professors have been awarded the most prestigious scholarship offered by the National Science Foundation to early-career professors nationwide.

The recipients of the foundation faculty’s Early Career Development Program are Yu April Chen in Education; Matthew Hiatt in oceanography and coastal sciences; Rui Han in mathematics; and Don Zhang in psychology.

Yu April Chen

Chen will receive $497,713 from the foundation over five years to study the four-year graduation rate of racial minority students and to promote racial equity in STEM fields.

“A community college campus is very different from a four-year college campus in terms of class size, culture, and environment,” she said in an interview. “There are so many distractions in a big school and how you get there to achieve your goals successfully. That’s the distraction that I particularly focus on for these NSF projects.”

Chen said the money for his research would be divided into two parts.

Half will be set aside to hire a research associate and incentivize participants to be interviewed “multiple times over multiple years” as part of the research. The other half will be used to develop and run the transfer student success program in conjunction with the student affairs offices on campus.

“We will hire additional students and then design the program to be a combination of peer mentorship programs, social activities, and undergraduate research opportunities,” Chen said.

Matthew Hiatt

Hiatt will receive $480,917 over five years to conduct research on complex coastal hydrological processes essential to predicting the future effects of coastal restoration strategies.

Primarily focused on Louisiana, Hiatt said he would use fieldwork and numerical modeling to combine five years of field measurements in the Wax Lake delta with computer simulations of long- and short-term changes in the delta to understand the dynamic patterns of changes in water movement. Through time.

“We’re trying to figure out how things like sea level rise and things like changes in sediment distribution affect the growth of the delta and subsequently influence how the hydrology or the movement of the water changes as the system expands,” he said.

Hiatt said most of his award will support people helping him work on the project, including a dedicated doctoral student, a master’s student, two graduate students and a research engineer to help create equipment. ground.

“I hope the work is helpful in advancing coastal restoration efforts in Louisiana,” Hiatt said. “Of course, I have my own scientific goals, but I like the practical aspect of the work I do.”

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Don Zhang

Zhang will use $430,000 to study risky behaviors in the workplace.

The impetus behind his work, Zhang said, comes from research he and his colleagues have conducted over the past five to 10 years to profile risk takers and try to measure risk preferences.

“What I aim to do, with the generous support of the NSF, is to take a lot of the good work we’ve done so far and apply it to the work context,” he said. he declares. “Trying to understand, if you are a risk-taking employee, what does that mean in terms of performance and behavior at work.”

Zhang said that since most people associate risk-taking with reckless or irresponsible behavior, his research will be designed to investigate how risk-taking can be optimized to place people who tend to engage in behavior at risk. risk in situations in which their nature could have a positive impact. .

“That’s really what we’re trying to study: in what situation do risk takers at work take risks that would benefit either the organization or society at large?” he said.

Zhang said he aimed to reach out to organizations in high-risk occupations, such as the chemical and manufacturing industries, to understand how to prevent security incidents due to reckless risk-taking.

Rui Han

Han will receive $464,836 over five years for his project, “Schrödinger’s Operators on Networks.”

It will search for electrons in a lattice material structure, such as graphene, under external magnetic fields.

Understanding the structural characteristics of the network in different materials has important real-world applications, including electricity transmission and room-temperature superconductors.

His research will focus on whether electrons can escape over time, how they will behave, and whether there are mathematical ways to quantify electron behavior.

“The NSF CAREER Award provides support for these new faculty members to advance their research,” Samuel Bentley, LSU’s vice president of research and economic development, said in a statement. “NSF’s investment in our talented faculty is having a positive ripple effect for the state, the nation, and the world as these researchers tackle some of our most pressing problems.”