Haiying He, Ph.D., and Luke Venstrom, ’07, Ph.D., will serve as University Research Professors at Valparaiso University for the 2019–2020 academic year. The grants recognize and encourage scholarly accomplishments and will afford Professors He and Venstrom the opportunity to continue creative and original work through one semester of full-time leave with pay or two consecutive semesters with a half-time schedule, plus a $4,000 stipend.
Professor He, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, will continue research on computational design of new materials for energy conversion in collaboration with scientists at Argonne National Laboratory. Her research may greatly impact our energy sustainability and security. In addition, she will initiate a new research direction in quantum computing, a burgeoning field that can handle computationally complex problems in a way that is impossible using conventional hardware. This aspect of research falls in line with the “National Quantum Initiative Act” to accelerate quantum research and development in the United States.
Professor Venstrom, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and bioengineering, plans to take a sabbatical year as a visiting research scientist at the Solar Energy Institute of the German Aerospace Center located outside of Cologne, Germany. As a visiting scientist, he will continue research in solar thermal chemistry, an approach to using solar energy that stores the energy chemically in metal oxides by heating them with concentrated sunlight to temperatures exceeding 1200°F. Solar energy stored in this unique form can be released to produce electricity when the sun is not shining or to produce a fuel for transportation. He will fund a student to join him in his research during the summer of 2020, and together they will use state-of-the-art equipment to measure how fast metal oxide is energized, a key variable for solar energy efficiency.
The Creative Work and Research Committee selects University Research Professors on the basis of their proposal’s originality and significance and the applicant’s capacity to execute the program of study.