By: Benjamin F. Jones, Northwestern University and Mohammad Ahmadpoor, Northwestern University

What does hailing a ride with Uber have to do with 19th-century geometry and Einstein’s theory of relativity? Quite a bit, it turns out.

Uber and other location-based mobile applications rely on GPS to link users with available cars nearby. GPS technology requires a network of satellites that transmit data to and from Earth; but satellites wouldn’t relay information correctly if their clocks failed to account for the fact that time is different in space – a tenet of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. And Einstein’s famous theory relies on Riemannian geometry, which was proposed in the 19th century to explain how spaces and curves interact – but dismissed as derivative and effectively useless in its time.

The point is not just that mathematicians don’t always get their due. This example highlights an ongoing controversy about the value of basic science and scholarship. How much are marketplace innovations, which drive broad economic prosperity, actually linked to basic scientific research?

It’s an important question. Plenty of tax dollars and other funds go toward the research performed in academic centers, government labs and other facilities. But what kind of return are we as a society recouping on this large investment in new discoveries? Does scientific research reliably lead to usable practical advances?

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In May 2017 during the 231st ECS Meeting, we sat down with Eric Wachsman, director and William L. Crentz Centennial Chair in Energy Research at the University of Maryland Energy Research Center. The conversation is led by Rob Gerth, ECS’s director of marketing and communications.

Wachsman is an expert in solid oxide fuel cells and other energy storage technologies. He’s the lead organizer of the 7th International Electrochemical Energy Summit, which will take place at the 232nd ECS Meeting in National Harbor, Maryland, October 1st through the 6th. His work in battery safety, water treatment, and clean energy development has gained international attention.

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By: Christopher Keane, Washington State University

BudgetEmergency: You need more disposable diapers, right away. You hop into your car and trust your ride will be a safe one. Thanks to your phone’s GPS and the microchips that run it, you map out how to get to the store fast. Once there, the barcode on the package lets you accurately check out your purchase and run. Each step in this process owes a debt to the universities, researchers, students and the federal funding support that got these products and technologies rolling in the first place.

By some tallies, almost two-thirds of the technologies with the most far-reaching impact over the last 50 years stemmed from federally funded R&D at national laboratories and research universities.

The benefits from this investment have trickled down into countless aspects of our everyday lives. Even the internet that allows you to read this article online has its roots in federal dollars: The U.S. Department of Defense supported installation of the first node of a communications network called ARPANET at UCLA back in 1969.

As Congress debates the upcoming budget, its members might remember the economic impacts and improved quality of life that past congressional support of basic and applied research has created.

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In May 2017 during the 231st ECS Meeting, we sat down with 2016-2017 ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship winner, Elizabeth Biddinger, to discuss green chemistry, sustainable engineering, and the future of transportation. The conversation was led by Amanda Staller, ECS’s web content specialist.

Biddinger is an assistant professor at the City College of New York, part of the City University of New York system. There, she leads a research group that covers research areas ranging from electrocatalysis to ionic liquids. Her work in switchable electrolytes earned her a spot among the 2016-2017 fellowship winners.

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Event Information:
Cubicciotti Award and honorable mention ceremony
July 13, 2017
4:00 – 5:00 pm
Tan Kah Kee Hall Building, Room 180, UC Berkeley
Parking: Stadium parking garage, Hearst parking garage

The ECS San Francisco Section, and a jury of representatives from Apple, Bosch, and QuantumScape have selected the 2017 winner and honorable mention recipients of the Daniel Cubicciotti Student Award. Each application was reviewed to select the candidates whose personal characteristics best reflected Dan Cubicciotti’s commitment to academic excellence, integrity, and ‘joie de vivre.’ Research judgment focused on the quality of the work, which necessarily had an electrochemical component, the broader context in which it had been performed, and the insight achieved to this point. Extracurricular activities were given equal consideration in the application judgment.

After a full review of all the candidates, Tianyu Liu (UC Santa Cruz) was selected as the 2017 Cubicciotti winner. Honorable mentions were Colin Burke (UC, Berkeley) and Limei Chen (UC Santa Cruz). Congratulations to all three of our recipients!

Tianyu, Colin, and Limei will present their research at our Cubicciotti Award ceremony. Their abstracts and biographies can be found below.

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In May 2017, we sat down with ECS Senior Vice President Yue Kuo and ECS’s newly elected 3rd Vice President Stefan DeGendt at the 231st ECS Meeting in New Orleans. The conversation was led by Roque Calvo, ECS’s executive director and chief executive officer.

Kuo joined ECS in 1995. Since then, he has been named ECS fellow and served as an editor for both the Journal of The Electrochemical Society and the ECS Journal of Solid State Science and Technology. His research efforts have made a tremendous mark on the scientific community, earning him the ECS Gordon E. Moore Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Solid State Science in 2015.

DeGendt is also an ECS fellow and was recently elected to the Society’s board of directors. Since joining ECS in 2000, DeGendt has participated in the organization of several meeting symposia and currently serves as a technical editor of the ECS Journal of Solid State Science and Technology.

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Yi Cui

Image: Yi Cui Lab

The Blavatnik Family Foundation and the New York Academy of Sciences today announced the 2017 Laureates of the Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists. Starting with a pool of 308 nominees – the most promising scientific researchers aged 42 years and younger nominated by America’s top academic and research institutions – a distinguished jury first narrowed their selections to 30 finalists, and then to three outstanding Laureates, one each from the disciplines of life sciences, chemistry, and physical sciences and engineering. Each Laureate will receive $250,000 – the largest unrestricted award of its kind for early career scientists and engineers.

ECS member Yi Cui was one of three awarded the 2017 Balvatnik National Award for Young Scientists.

Cui is a professor of materials science and engineering and of photon science at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. He is a member of ECS’s Battery Division and the San Francisco Section. Cui is being honored by the Balvatnik Family Foundation for his technological innovations in the use of nanomaterials for environmental protection and the development of sustainable energy sources.

“Professor Cui is a world-leading researcher in the fields of energy and nanomaterials science who is making extraordinary contributions to these important areas of technology,” says David Awschalom, member of the 2017 national award jury. “His approach towards achieving the goals of efficient storage and conversion of energy by exploiting precise nanoscale materials design is extremely creative, and is already having a global impact.”

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In May 2017, we sat down with Subhash Singhal, a world leader in the study of solid oxide fuel cells, at the 231st ECS Meeting in New Orleans. The conversation was led by Rob Gerth, director of marketing and communications at ECS.

Singhal is a Batelle Fellow and Director of Fuel Cells at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and the lead organizer of the upcoming 15th International Symposium on Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFC-XV), taking place in Hollywood, Florida, July 23-28, 2017. Additionally, he is an ECS fellow, has served on the Society’s board of directors, and received the ECS Outstanding Achievement Award in High Temperature Materials.

Listen to the podcast and download this episode and others for free through the iTunes Store, SoundCloud, or our RSS Feed. You can also find us on Stitcher and Acast.

PS: There’s still time to register for SOFC-XV! Advanced registration and hotel reservations end June 30! Register and book your hotel today!

In May 2017, we sat down with Kathy Ayers, vice president of research and development for Proton OnSite, at the 231st ECS Meeting in New Orleans. The conversation was led by Amanda Staller, web content specialist at ECS.

Ayer’s work focuses on a multitude of energy technologies, including fuel cells, batteries, and solar cells. Currently, her work targets the production of hydrogen by PEM electrolysis. She has been a member of ECS since 1999, lending her expertise to various Society programs and meeting symposia along the way.

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Google ScholarA journal’s impact factor looks at the number of citations within a particular year, but the significance of some research exceeds a one year time frame. To highlight these papers, Google Scholar released their Classic Papers collection, which highlights highly-cited papers that have stood the test of time.

“This release of classic papers consists of articles that were published in 2006 and is based on our index as it was in May 2017,” Sean Henderson, software engineer at Google Scholar, said in a release. “The list of classic papers includes articles that presented new research. It specifically excludes review articles, introductory articles, editorials, guidelines, commentaries, etc. It also excludes articles with fewer than 20 citations and, for now, is limited to articles written in English.”

In the category of electrochemistry, works by ECS members Gleb Yushin, Christopher Johnson, Yuri Gogotsi, and Bernard Tribollet made the list.

Additionally, Michael Graetzel’s 2006 paper published in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society (JES), “Highly Efficient Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells Based on Carbon Black Counter Electrodes,” claimed the number eight spot.

“A journal from a professional society like ECS will look at the value of the science as the value of the science and not necessarily what its pizzazz is at that particular time,” Robert Savinell, editor of JES, told ECS in a recent podcast. “I think that’s one of the reasons we have this 10 year impact factor that’s at the top of the list. We’re looking at quality of the science in the long term.”