Baylor Chemist Earns Coveted National Science Foundation CAREER Award
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Written by Gary Stokes, OVPR
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WACO, Texas (April 12, 2018) – Caleb D. Martin, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry and two-time Baylor University Rising Star researcher, has been selected to receive a 2018 Faculty Early Career Development Program grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Known as CAREER awards, the grants are the most prestigious awards made by the NSF and are given in support of early-career researchers who, according to the program’s website, “have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.” The five-year, $650,000 grant is funded through the NSF’s Chemical Synthesis Program in support of Martin’s research into synthesizing analogues of benzene containing boron.
“Virtually all junior faculty in the sciences aspire to receive an NSF CAREER award, which indicates exceptional promise of an investigator in research, education and public outreach,” said Kevin Chambliss, Ph.D., associate dean for research and graduate education in Baylor’s College of Arts and Sciences. “Dr. Martin’s work on novel, boron-containing materials is being recognized nationally as an important innovation in synthetic chemistry.”
Chambliss said the award recognizes Martin’s abilities as a researcher as well as the nascent potential of boron chemistry as an emerging field.
This class of materials is considered to have the potential to improve the durability and performance of organic photovoltaic (OPV) solar cells and organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) used in devices, such as smart phones, TVs and tablets. Conventional inorganic systems are rigid and brittle while their organic counterparts, OLEDs and OPVs, can be made flexible. In addition to having other possible applications, Martin sees his work as having the potential to help bring electrical power to millions of people living in remote or underdeveloped regions.
“Already today . . . if you go camping, you can unroll a flexible organic solar panel and charge your phone or charge your battery. You can’t do that with inorganic solar devices because they are not flexible,” Martin said. “There’s a significant world population that doesn’t have access to energy, and it currently is not feasible to set up a grid in many areas. If you are in a Third World country, the benefits of a durable and portable energy source are enormous.”
Other anticipated applications for Martin’s research lie in the electronics, defense and energy sectors as well as in the pharmaceutical industry, which has developed a few successful boron-based therapeutic compounds.
“Dr. Caleb Martin is an outstanding young faculty member, as evidenced by his selection to the Rising Stars program and this CAREER award,” said Truell S. Hyde, vice provost for research at Baylor. “I have no doubt he will continue to excel as he moves forward in his career as a prominent member of the chemistry department.”
NSF CAREER awards also carry an educational component aimed at stimulating interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines among middle and high school students. Underprivileged youth are a special focus.
Even before receiving his CAREER award, Martin and the Martin Research Group, which he founded and leads, had teamed with “The Cove,” a local nonprofit agency that serves area students who are homeless and comprised primarily of minority populations, all groups that are generally underrepresented in the STEM fields.
“I involve my research group — the graduate students and undergraduate students — in the outreach. I think they find it useful, rewarding and enjoy the experience. Now they do most of the effort in organizing, getting all of the supplies and coming up with new experiments and demonstrations for the students,” Martin said.
The members of Martin’s group also realize the importance of the social aspects of outreach, and they strive to relate to the students personally
“Sometimes when you’re growing up, your social bubble doesn’t expand very far. Normally, they probably wouldn’t get to informally interact with someone like me or the students from the group, so we always try to make time to interact with them,” he said. “And I think it’s beneficial for the students that we’re visiting not only to see a professor, but to see people who are at various stages in their education and closer to their own age.”
Martin sees the CAREER award as an expression of confidence in his potential as a researcher, but he is first and foremost a professor.
“You have to keep the big picture in mind. Inevitably, my contribution to science is only going to go so far. But hopefully at an educational institution you educate students who also make contributions, and that’s really how you can make the most difference. You have people who go on and do bigger and better things,” he said. “I hope to help students be as successful as they are capable of being, give them a good experience, solid educational foundation and help them utilize the time they’ve had in graduate school to form their research mind to succeed beyond their time at Baylor.”
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.
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ABOUT THE OFFICE OF THE VICE PROVOST FOR RESEARCH
The Office of the Vice Provost for Research (OVPR) assists faculty members from all academic units in identifying, obtaining and managing the funding needed to support their research and scholarship. Internal 'seed' funding, matching grant proposal funding, searchable online funding databases, grant writing seminars, proposal support and travel awards to national funding agencies are only a portion of what is provided by the various units comprising the OVPR. Additionally, the Vice Provost for Research oversees the ethical conduct of research and assists researchers in maintaining compliance with applicable policies, laws and regulations as well as providing support in establishing interdisciplinary / international collaborations and industry partnerships.
The OVPR acts as Baylor’s representative in pursuing partnerships and collaborative agreements with entities outside the university. The office negotiates sponsored research agreements with industry on behalf of faculty and pursues research, technology transfer and the commercialization of technology. The OVPR welcomes the opportunity to discuss collaborative research and scholarship pursuits that can advance the academic mission of Baylor University to achieve R1/T1 status.
The OVPR also manages and operates the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC), a three-story, 330,000-square-foot facility focused on interdisciplinary/international research, industry/university collaborations, business incubation/acceleration/commercialization, advanced workforce training and STEM educational research and outreach.