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In the 2023 Spring Meeting of the Materials Research Society (MRS) held in San Francisco, California, a team led by Dr. Dhananjay Kumar visited the labs of Dr. Ethan Crumlin and Dr. Junko Yano. The team included Sheilah Cherono and Moses Ashie, who were both students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical (A&T) State University.

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The Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRC) program, initiated by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in 2009, has gained significant attention. Presently, over 100 DOE EFRCs are operational nationwide, funded by the DOE’s Office of Science.

Recently, North Carolina A&T was awarded a grant by the DOE to establish an EFRC on its campus. The Center for Electrochemical Dynamics and Reactions on Surfaces (CEDARS) at N.C. A&T, led by Dr. Dhananjay Kumar, a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, is the recipient of the grant.

CEDARS is a collaborative initiative aimed at promoting clean energy initiatives, with a focus on splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen to produce clean hydrogen for energy use.

N.C. A&T is the first historically Black college and university (HBCU) to receive funding from the DOE for this research. Dr. Kumar believes the university was selected because of its significant potential impact on the community, with over 80% African American undergraduate population.

CEDARS has a range of partners, including MIT, Cornell University, the University of Colorado, Pennsylvania State University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Dartmouth College, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

CEDARS offers courses and modules in clean energy and thin film technology to students across campus, not just those majoring in engineering. The program aims to train the next generation of leaders in these fields, incorporating hands-on research experience to prepare students effectively for their future. Kumar believes that research is the glue that keeps students interested in advanced degree education.

Kumar’s NSF PREM seed project at N.C.A&T, in partnership with Cornell University, has played a key role in funding the CEDARS project. The program has produced successful Ph.D. students who are now post-doctoral researchers at Cornell University, Duke University, and North Carolina State University. Kumar is committed to outreach programs in local high schools to encourage participation in the undergraduate program at N.C. A&T.

In February 2023, Dr. Jun Suntivich, a principal investigator from Cornell University, visited North Carolina A&T and had one-on-one meetings with PIs and students. He also explored the possibility of establishing a chemistry laboratory at N.C. A&T, and even visited the PI’s lab to better understand the available facilities. Read the full story in the upcoming issue of US Black Engineer magazine.

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