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NSF CAREER Award: Professor Karen Chen-Wiegart Advancing Metallic Nano-Materials with X-ray Methods and Nanotechnology at Brookhaven Lab

Materials Science and Chemical Engineering (MSCE) Assistant Professor, Karen Chen-Wiegart, has been awarded the 2018 National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development Award, known as NSF CAREER award, for her project A Multi-modal Study of Bi-continous Pattern Formation in Nano/Meso Composite and Porous Metals Films via Solid-State Interfacial Dealloying.  The NSF CAREER award is one of the most competitive and prestigious awards proving federal grants to support junior faculty with research and educational activities. Karen will receive $558K over the next five years to conduct her project.

Chen-Wiegart received the award from NSF’s Metals and Metallic Nanostructures Program in the Division of Materials Research. Her CAREER research aims to investigate an emerging dealloying process: solid-state interfacial dealloying (SSID). This process is a versatile method for fabricating interconnected bi-continuous metal-metal composites and high-surface porous metals at the nano/meso scales. Understanding the fundamental thermodynamic and kinetic relationships, which drive the SSID process, will potentially allow for the design of new materials with functions in a wide range of important fields including sensing, actuating, energy storage and catalysis.

Karen Outside of NSLS-II

 The investigation of such important process design will be done using advanced X-ray techniques at the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II), where Chen-Wiegart currently holds a Joint Appointment and worked as a staff scientist prior to joining Stony Brook. The material synthesis will also take place at the Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN), also located at Brookhaven National Laboratory. Chen-Wiegart hopes to further collaborate with the staff scientists at CFN to investigate the functionalities of these new materials. NSLS-II and CFN are both U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facilities at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

“Basic understanding of fundamental kinetics and thermodynamics in materials across multiple time and spatial scales in materials science are always important – they will lead to more elegant methods for designing novel architectures that enable new functionalities, benefiting our society,” said Professor Chen-Wiegart. “However, understanding the changes during the processes is challenging, because these changes can happen rapidly, and at a small length scale. This is why we use NSLS-II at Brookhaven National Laboratory – it offers unique capabilities with a bright X-ray source to capture the changes of materials. In particular, we will take a so-called ‘multi-modal approach,’ using a range of complementary X-ray tCFNechniques to provide a more holistic view of this process.”


“Karen has been a fantastic addition to our department” said Michael Dudley, the Chair of the Department of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering, “As she has demonstrated, MSCE at Stony Brook University is a great place for enthusiastic scientists and engineers to pursue their dreams through cutting-edge research. As she just began her second year as a junior faculty member with a joint appointment at Brookhaven, I look forward to Karen’s future research and educational contributions to our department and to her field, as she advances her career.”

Indeed, the CAREER award will also support an integrated educational plan based on the Stony Brook University (SBU) - Brookhaven National Laboratory collaboration, which promotes materials science and engineering to a diverse student body.  Chen-Wiegart will engage students to study materials science using modern synchrotron X-ray techniques at NSLS-II. These educational opportunities will offer invaluable research experiences for the students to make impact with cutting-edge materials research at one of the world-leading synchrotron facilities.

 “I’ve known Karen since she was a graduate student at Northwestern University working at the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Lab, and I was delighted when we were able to hire her onto the NSLS-II scientific staff” said Paul Zschack, the NSLS-II Photon Science Division Director.  “It is very satisfying to witness her achievements and see her growth as a researcher.  Her interactions with Brookhaven and NSLS-II scientists are highly valued, and I look forward to successful and high-impact scientific collaboration for many years to come”. 

About the Researcher

Prof. Chen-Wiegart earned her PhD in Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern University, where she focused on the study of the dealloying and coarsening behaviors of nanoporous metals. Her research was co-funded by the Advanced Photon Source (APS) located at Argonne National Laboratory, another DOE Office of Science User Facility. Before joining the Department of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering at SBU, she was a post-doctoral fellow at NSLS and then a staff member at NSLS-II. Her research focused on investigating the processing-structure-property correlation in materials, in particular using advanced synchrotron X-ray characterizations to understand the meso-scale structural and chemical evolution. Her recent research topics include energy storage and conversion, nano-/ meso-porous materials, 3D-printing, thin films and surface treatment, as well as materials in cultural heritage.  

In addition to her scientific activities, Prof. Chen-Wiegart has also been active in outreach programs at SBU, BNL and her local community. As an engaging invited speaker, she spoke in the Suffolk Community College “Women in Manufacturing – STEM Summit” in 2018, in the American Society for Metals (ASM) International, Long Island Chapter in 2017, in the International Women's Day Celebration in 2016 “Girl Power in STEM” for the Women in Science & Engineering program at Stony Brook University, and in a PubSci Event at Storyville American Table Backyard Bar in 2014. As a leader, she has led NSLS-II facility tour for High School Career Day Tour at Brookhaven Women in Science (BWIS) event, organized events such as “Bring Our Children to Work Day” for the Photon Sciences Division at Brookhaven Lab, and also co-organized event ‘Imagination Station’ as part of a 5 days-children’s summer camp for >250 children at a local church, North Shore Christian Church on Long Island since 2013.


Chen-Wiegart Research Group Website:

Department of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering at Stony Brook University:

National Synchrotron Light Source – II at Brookhaven National Laboratory:

Center for Functional Nanomaterials: