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Ramesh Jasti’s “distinguished performance and unique potential” were recognized recently by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The College of Arts & Sciences assistant professor of chemistry has been awarded a 2013 Sloan Research Fellowship for his work with carbon nanotubes.
Jasti, who is also a member of the College of Engineering Division of Materials Science & Engineering, is among 126 recipients to receive one of the two-year fellowships, awarded annually to young academic scholars working in the fields of chemistry, computer science, economics, mathematics, evolutionary and computational molecular biology, neuroscience, ocean sciences, and physics who have demonstrated outstanding achievement. The fellowships carry a monetary value of $50,000, which can be applied to a number of uses.
“Professor Jasti is the latest in a great succession of BU College of Arts & Sciences faculty whose distinguished work has earned them Sloan Research Fellowships,” says Virginia Sapiro, dean of Arts & Sciences. “We are all so proud of him and of the recognition that the young scientists of CAS are receiving.”
The Sloan Foundation, named for a former president and CEO of General Motors, was founded in 1934 to support research in science, mathematics, engineering, technology, and economics. The fellowships are given annually to early-career scientists and scholars “in recognition of distinguished performance and a unique potential to make substantial contributions to their field,” according to the foundation. Candidates must be nominated for the fellowship by a department head or another senior researcher. Former Sloan Research Fellowship recipients have gone on to win a total of 39 Nobel prizes.
Jasti says that receiving the fellowship comes at a critical juncture in his career. “Winning the Sloan means that the peers in your field find your research to be some of the more innovative research being done by the young faculty members, and that is a great vote of confidence,” Jasti says. “The awards are given across multiple fields, and they don’t give many of them. When you get something like this, you know that your colleagues and peers feel what you are doing is important.”
Jasti is involved in finding new ways to synthesize well-defined, uniform structures from which homogeneous carbon nanotubes—extremely thin, hollow cylinders composed of carbon atoms—could be constructed. Currently there is no way to mass-produce carbon nanotubes, a conundrum that he and researchers at the Jasti Research Group have been trying to find a solution for.
“Some types of carbon nanotubes have conductivity that is 1,000 times faster than copper,” Jasti says. “If you were able to come up with a controlled uniform synthesis of these structures, you could shrink the size of computers and have a lot more capacity to store information on them. In addition, we could transport energy along the electric grid much more efficiently.”
Carbon nanotubes could also be used, he says, in solar energy materials, components for faster electronics, and single-molecule biosensors.
When he received the email notifying him that he had won a Sloan fellowship, Jasti chose to share the news first with the graduate students working in his lab.
“They’re the ones who are many times doing the experiments in the lab,” he says. “They work really hard and work late hours and make a lot of sacrifices to push the research forward. In a lot of ways it was also an acknowledgment of their work, and so I told them first.”
The Sloan Fellowship is just the latest accolade for Jasti in the last few months. In January, he received a five-year Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation, given to junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research. And earlier this month, Jasti and his group won a BU Ignition Award from the University’s Office of Technology Development (OTD). The award will help fund their research into using carbon nanohoops as advanced energy storage materials.
Ignition Awards aim to help turn lab discoveries into practical products and services and are available to researchers in all fields. The Ignition program includes a venture capital advisory board that helps review applications and works with winners on creating and licensing new ventures.