Michael Thomas, a second-year UNT Chemistry Ph.D. student studying under the guidance of Professor Francis D'Souza, has been named a 2017 awardee of the prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program! Michael was selected as one of 2000 awardees from over 13,000 applicants representing a wide range of scientific disciplines all across the U.S.
Michael's research in Professor D'Souza's group aims to create new technologies for solar light energy harvesting that could eventually lead to portable energy harvesting devices. Specifically, Michael is working with molecules that can control the transfer of energy and electrons upon light illumination. Michael utilizes sophisticated ultrafast laser spectroscopy techniques to test the potential of these molecules for high performance, cost-effective, long-lasting photovoltaic devices.
Michael's accomplishments in the Chemistry Department have been inspired in part by his experience in the U.S. Marine Corps. When deployed in Afghanistan, his unit worked to provide water and protection to Afghans in rural communities by building wells and providing defenses. However, they were unable to provide access to electricity for these communities, and this inspired Michael to think about how new technologies might be developed to meet energy needs in remote areas. Michael's experience was also shaped by working in an ethnically diverse unit that also included many female Marines. Building on this experience, Michael aims to promote diversity in the STEM fields through mentoring and collaborating with researchers from diverse backgrounds and across the world.