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Ames Laboratory scientist receives award for advancing diversity

DOE/Ames Laboratory

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IMAGE: This is Javier Vela, scientist with the US Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory and assistant professor of chemistry at Iowa State University. view more

Credit: U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory

Javier Vela, scientist with the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory and an assistant professor in chemistry at Iowa State University, has been selected as a 2014 recipient of the Stanley C. Israel Regional Award for Advancing Diversity in Chemical Sciences. The award is given by the American Chemical Society (ACS) and is sponsored by the ACS Committee on Minority Affairs. The award honors nominees who have created and fostered ongoing programs or activities that result in increased numbers of persons from diverse and underrepresented minority groups, persons with disabilities, or women who participate in the chemical enterprise. Vela will receive the award at the ACS Midwest Regional Meeting to be held in Columbia, Missouri, November 12-15, 2014.

Award winners receive a medal and $1,000 grant to support and further the activities for which the award was made.

Vela has served as a scientist mentor for three Ames Laboratory education programs, including the Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI) program, Visiting Faculty Program (VFP) and Community College Internship (CCI) program. Students in these programs participate in 10-week summer or 16-week semester internships, working alongside scientist mentors in real-world research labs. Through the SULI and CCI programs and the VFP at the Ames Laboratory, Vela has mentored students and faculty from historically black colleges and universities and community colleges in states from Texas to New York to Georgia.

"Over the past five years, we have worked very hard to recruit, train and retain under-represented minority and female students and scholars into Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields," said Vela. "Early on, I focused on supporting and strengthening excellent programs that already existed on campus, such as ISU Science Bound and the Ames Laboratory SULI program. I also partnered with colleagues Steve Karsjen, Emily Smith and Malika Jeffries-EL to be the first mentors in the a Visiting Faculty Program (VFP) at Ames Laboratory, as well as the ISU Chapter of ACS Project SEED for high school students, which is the only one of its type in the state of Iowa. The results to date have been excellent, both in terms of the number and quality of scholars impacted as well as in the amount and caliber of the research that they have done."

"Both Ames Laboratory and ISU deserve shared recognition for this award, " Vela added. "Through SULI, CCI, VFP, ACS Project SEED and similar efforts, Vela believes ISU and Ames Laboratory represent institutional models for inclusion and diversity among their staff, faculty and students."

Vela received his B.S. with Honors from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in 2001, and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Rochester in 2003 and 2005, respectively. He was a postdoctoral associate at the University of Chicago from 2005 to 2006, and a Director's Postdoctoral Fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory from 2007 to 2009. In addition to the Stanley C. Israel Award, Vela has been the recipient of the ACS Inorganic Young Investigator Award in 2006, the NSF CAREER Award in 2013, the ISU College of Library Arts and Sciences Diversity Award in 2013, and the ISU LAS Early Achievement in Research Faculty Award in 2014. Hispanic Engineering magazine also named him among the Top 40 Under 40 Hispanic scientists in 2011. Vela's research focuses on photoactive nanomaterials for applications in catalysis, renewable energy, and biological imaging."It was an honor for Ames Laboratory to provide a letter of support for the nomination of Dr. Vela for this award," said Steve Karsjen, Ames Laboratory education programs director. "There is no one who deserves it more."

Ames Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science national laboratory operated by Iowa State University. Ames Laboratory creates innovative materials, technologies and energy solutions. We use our expertise, unique capabilities and interdisciplinary collaborations to solve global problems.

DOE'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.

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