Chemical engineering faculty at UC Santa Barbara have awarded graduate student Clarke Palmer the department’s prestigious Schlinger Fellowship for Excellence in Chemical Engineering Research for the 2020-21 academic year. Established through a generous gift from Warren and Katharine Schlinger, the award recognizes a fourth- or fifth-year doctoral student in the department who has made outstanding progress in research projects, demonstrated by publications, submitted manuscripts, and other measures of impact.
“I am humbled to have won this award, especially among such talented colleagues,” said Palmer, a fifth-year chemical engineering PhD student. “It is rewarding to feel that my research work here at UCSB has made a measurable impact on the science community.”
Palmer is a member of Professor Eric McFarland’s research group, which couples fundamental processes with novel material systems in order to allow for the cost-effective production and use of energy and energy-related chemicals. The team is investigating new ways to produce CO2-free energy products, such as hydrogen and solid carbon, from low-cost natural gas by using molten metal and molten salt systems. The group works in conjunction with the New Energies & Research Technology group at Royal Dutch Shell.
“We have done many exciting proof-of-concepts at the laboratory scale, but still have many more hurdles to tackle if we want to see this technology become industrialized,” said Palmer. “Working so closely with a large energy company like Shell makes the possibility of a more rapid and large-scale deployment that much more possible if we are successful.”
Palmer says he has gained valuable experience conducting hands-on experiments as a researcher at UCSB. He is proudest of the number of first-authored and co-authored papers that he has been able to publish in high-impact scientific journals, such as Nature Catalysis, ACS Catalysis, ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, and Catalysis Science & Technology.
“Working in such a new field, there are so many exciting and unexplored avenues in this research,” said Palmer, whose previous honors include a summer fellowship from UCSB’s Mellichamp Academic Initiative in Sustainability and the Highest-Rated Presentation Quality award from the Chemical Engineering Department’s 13th annual Amgen-Clorox Graduate Student Symposium. “My plan for the remainder of my time at UCSB is to both finish up outstanding projects and to do some preliminary explorations along these new avenues in order to identify promising next steps for future group members.”
Palmer is on track to graduate in spring 2021. After which, he hopes to work on disruptive energy technologies for a large energy company, a career path similar to Warren Schlinger, who spent nearly fifty years at Texaco. An elected member of the National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, Schlinger established himself as a pioneer in the development of processes to produce clean energy from traditional fossil fuel sources.