News Release

Three Argonne scientists receive 2023 DOE Early Career Awards

Matthew Becker, Steven Brus and Yue Cao named winners

Grant and Award Announcement

DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

Argonne DOE Early Career Awards

image: Argonne scientists Matthew Becker, Steven Brus and Yue Cao were named winners of DOE Early Career Awards for 2023. The awards are for $500,000 a year for five years. view more 

Credit: (Image by Argonne National Laboratory/Mark Lopez.)

Three scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have been named recipients of DOE Early Career Research Awards for 2023.

Matthew Becker, Steven Brus and Yue Cao each received the prestigious award, which comes with $500,000 per year for five years to further their research.

This DOE Office of Science program, now in its 14th year, seeks to strengthen the nation’s scientific workforce by providing support to exceptional researchers during their early career years, when many scientists make formative contributions. The 93 total awardees were selected from a large pool of applicants from universities and national labs based on peer review by scientific experts.

“Supporting America’s scientists and researchers early in their careers will ensure the United States remains at the forefront of scientific discovery,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. ​“The funding announced today gives the recipients the resources to find the answers to some of the most complex questions as they establish themselves as experts in their fields.”

Matthew Becker is an assistant physicist in Argonne’s High Energy Physics division. His research focuses on multidisciplinary problems related to cosmology, numerical computing, data analysis, statistics and machine learning. In particular, Becker works on image analysis for the Dark Energy Survey and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) from the Vera Rubin Observatory looking for signals of weak gravitational lensing. Weak gravitational lensing is the effect where massive structures in our universe very subtly distort the shapes of galaxies behind them.

“These signals are often hard to detect because the images themselves are very noisy and the telescopes introduce different amounts of distortion,” Becker said. ​“It requires complex computer code to reliably measure these signals — it’s like trying to listen in on a whispered conversation in a noisy room.”

With the Early Career Award, Becker plans to work with a team of postdoctoral scholars to develop, test and deploy a new algorithm for weak lensing signal measurement for the LSST Dark Energy Science Collaboration and Rubin Observatory. Initial studies indicate that this new algorithm will improve the precision of weak lensing measurements by approximately 15% relative to the current baseline technique planned for use in the Rubin analysis codes.

Steven Brus is an assistant computational scientist in Argonne’s Mathematics and Computer Science division. His research is focused on using advanced computing and numerical methods to improve the simulation of coastal flood processes, such as tides and storm surge, as well as the interactions between wind-generated waves and the global climate system.

With the Early Career Award, Brus plans to improve our understanding of how flood risk will evolve in major coastal-urban centers due to climate change factors, such as sea level rise and future extreme events.

Brus’s research involves DOE’s Energy Exascale Earth System (E3SM) climate model, in which he is trying to integrate the global-scale drivers of sea level rise with highly resolved coastal water level dynamics to predict the evolution of future flooding due to tides and storm surge. ​“By developing a new coupling paradigm to bridge the gap between global Earth system models and regional coastal flooding models, we will be better able to simulate the future risk of coastal inundation in areas that are currently home to a significant fraction of the U.S. population,” Brus said.

Yue Cao is an assistant physicist in Argonne’s Materials Science division. Cao’s work focuses on using synchrotrons such as Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source and X-ray free-electron lasers (XFELs) to probe the properties of new and interesting materials, particularly those that hold promise for quantum applications or next-generation microelectronics. The APS is a DOE Office of Science User Facility.

Cao’s research involves understanding the spatial distribution of inhomogeneous electronic order that gives rise to desired material properties, as well as possible approaches to control these properties using defect engineering and ultrafast optical lasers, amongst other means.

“Quantum materials host macroscopic properties such as magnetism and superconductivity because electrons cooperate and form magnetic and charge order,” Cao said. ​“In real materials, these states are usually heterogeneous because of different defects, which affects the properties we wish to utilize. The coherent X-rays from the upgraded Advanced Photon Source and XFELs will allow us to observe and identify the distribution of order and defects in ways that were not possible previously.”

Cao plans to investigate how these spatially inhomogeneous electronic orders evolve under external electromagnetic excitations, including using ultrafast lasers, and how defects affect such evolutions. The knowledge learned will in turn be used to optimize the design and control of these materials.

Nicholas Jackson, a former Maria Goppert Mayer Fellow at Argonne and currently an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, also received a DOE Early Career Award.  

“Our Early Career Award winners have great potential to achieve pivotal discoveries in high energy physics, computer science and quantum materials,” said Argonne Director Paul Kearns. ​“They exemplify the world-class community of talent that we have here at our laboratory, and I am excited to see them continue their cutting-edge research.”

About the Advanced Photon Source

The U. S. Department of Energy Office of Science’s Advanced Photon Source (APS) at Argonne National Laboratory is one of the world’s most productive X-ray light source facilities. The APS provides high-brightness X-ray beams to a diverse community of researchers in materials science, chemistry, condensed matter physics, the life and environmental sciences, and applied research. These X-rays are ideally suited for explorations of materials and biological structures; elemental distribution; chemical, magnetic, electronic states; and a wide range of technologically important engineering systems from batteries to fuel injector sprays, all of which are the foundations of our nation’s economic, technological, and physical well-being. Each year, more than 5,000 researchers use the APS to produce over 2,000 publications detailing impactful discoveries, and solve more vital biological protein structures than users of any other X-ray light source research facility. APS scientists and engineers innovate technology that is at the heart of advancing accelerator and light-source operations. This includes the insertion devices that produce extreme-brightness X-rays prized by researchers, lenses that focus the X-rays down to a few nanometers, instrumentation that maximizes the way the X-rays interact with samples being studied, and software that gathers and manages the massive quantity of data resulting from discovery research at the APS.

This research used resources of the Advanced Photon Source, a U.S. DOE Office of Science User Facility operated for the DOE Office of Science by Argonne National Laboratory under Contract No. DE-AC02-06CH11357.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://​ener​gy​.gov/​s​c​ience.

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