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Dinu Earns Prestigious NSF CAREER Award

Ceresela Dinu using her microscope in her lab

Cerasela Zoica Dinu

Cerasela Zoica Dinu, assistant professor of chemical engineering at West Virginia University, has earned a prestigious CAREER award from the National Science Foundation for her work to identify technologies capable of increasing the world's energy portfolio while reducing environmental impact. The award comes with more than $500,000 in funding over a five-year period.

With energy demand rising and the maintenance of supply becoming increasingly problematic, there is a need to build and implement the next generation of materials that can both ensure power generation and guarantee energy sustainability. Dinu's project will focus on the development of the next generation of catalytic nanomaterials for energy efficient systems generation.

"These materials can be up 10,000 times smaller than a human hair," Dinu said. "They have a controlled morphology and electronic structure that provides the best platform to catalyze chemical transformation.

"The nanocatalysts will be designed to have high light absorbance capabilities and emission efficiencies, as well as high corrosion-resistant properties," said Dinu. "This will ensure enhanced power conversion, selectivity, stability and a prolonged shelf-life for applications ranging from energy conversion, to electrolyzers, fuel cells and for environmental mitigation."

"Fossil fuels are a finite resource and we need to find alternatives," said Rakesh Gupta, professor and George and Carolyn Berry Chair of Chemical Engineering at WVU. "The research proposed by Dr. Dinu and supported by the NSF will help to advance the development of clean and sustainable energy technologies. This work is of vital importance to the country."

Dinu plans to engage students at both the graduate and undergraduate levels in her research in an effort to motivate and train the next generation of engineers and underrepresented groups.

"I want to find ways for them to stay involved with the continuously changing environment in catalysis-based science," said Dinu, who also hopes to provide unique and transformative instructional methods for infrastructure educational development and enhancement.

"West Virginia University encouraged me to establish a research and academic program that addresses critical problems in our society while building awareness and mentoring of next generation of students," said Dinu. "Receiving this award from NSF is extremely gratifying and could not have been done without the quality of the students in my group and my colleagues at WVU who served as mentors and supporters."

I am delighted to have Dr. Dinu recognized in recognition of the leading-edge research she is doing in energy nanomaterials," said Gene Cilento, Glen H. Hiner Dean of the Statler College. "She is an excellent faculty member, a dedicated and enthusiastic mentor to her students and she understands the importance of research and research funding in advancing the mission of the College."

Dinu received her doctorate in biology from Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics and Dresden Technical University in Germany. She earned her master's and bachelor's degrees in biophysics and physics from the University of Bucharest in Romania. Dinu was named one of the Outstanding Researchers in the Statler College in 2014 and the New Researcher of the Year in 2011.

The NSF's Faculty Early Career Development, or CAREER, program supports junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations. This is the fifth straight year that a member of the Statler College faculty has been selected to receive this honor.



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