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Chemical Engineering PhD Candidate Natalie Austin Invited to 67th Nobel Laureate Meeting on Chemistry

Natalie AustinPITTSBURGH, PA (March 22, 2017) … Natalie Austin, a PhD candidate in the Swanson School of Engineering’s Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, will participate in the 67th Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau, Germany this June. Austin will join an elite group of 400 – 500 international undergraduates, graduate students and post-doctoral researchers, who qualified for attendance after a multistage selection process.

Between 30 – 40 Nobel Laureates will also attend the meeting and interact with the next generation of scientists primed to make significant contributions to their fields. Each year the meeting focuses on one of the three natural sciences eligible for a Nobel Prize: chemistry, physics and physiology/medicine. This year’s topic of chemistry will be addressed and analyzed through lectures, discussion, master classes and panels.

Austin, who works in the Computer-Aided Nano and Energy Lab (CANELA) at Pitt, was one of two Pitt students selected to apply to the program. She qualified nationally as part of the Oak Ridge Associates Universities team and then passed through an international selection pool ranging from undergraduate to post-doctoral students below the age of 35.

“Attending the meeting held at Lindau is important to me,” said Austin. “I will have the opportunity to meet with the most successful and respected researchers in my field and beyond. More so, I believe that the interactions and networking opportunities provided at Lindau will be enriching to me, as well as inspire and motivate me as I move towards completing my graduate education and research.”  

Austin’s research at CANELA focuses on the computational design of bimetallic nanoparticles, which can absorb, activate and convert carbon dioxide into useful chemicals and fuels. Monometallic copper is commonly used as a catalyst for carbon dioxide conversion, but studies have shown enhanced activity on copper-based bimetallic catalysts. Austin is currently investigating both the physicochemical properties of the catalysts and the mechanism of carbon dioxide conversion to methanol, an alternative fuel source to gasoline in internal combustion engines.

Austin received her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering/bioengineering from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 2013 and will defend her doctoral thesis in May 2018. After graduation, Austin said she would like to begin a career in energy and environmental research for the government or in an industrial setting. 

“I am personally very proud of Natalie and of what she has accomplished so far,” said Giannis Mpourmpakis, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at Pitt and principal investigator at CANELA. “Having participated in this meeting in the past, I know how competitive the selection process is and how beneficial this experience will be for her future career.”


Author: Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer

Contact: Paul Kovach