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Meet the 2022 Inorganic Chemistry Lectureship Award Recipient

Hemamala Karunadasa
May 31 2022

 The annual Inorganic Chemistry Lectureship Award, co-sponsored by the ACS Division of Inorganic Chemistry, recognizes individuals who have demonstrated
creativity and impact in the field of inorganic chemistry.

 

Meet the Recipient

This year’s recipient is Associate Professor Hemamala Karunadasa at Stanford University. Prof. Karunadasa is being recognized for her application of molecular design principles to push boundaries in solid-state inorganic chemistry, especially for the development of perovskite materials with diverse electronic and optical properties.

Following undergraduate studies in chemistry and materials science at Princeton University, Prof. Karunadasa pursued her Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, and carried out postdoctoral research at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and California Institute of Technology. In addition to her faculty role at Stanford, Prof. Karunadasa is a Senior Fellow of the Precourt Institute for Energy and a Faculty Scientist at the SLAC National Lab. She is the recipient of the 2020 ACS Harry Gray Award for Creative Work in Inorganic Chemistry by a Young Investigator. Prof. Karunadasa is an associate editor for Chemical Science.

Learn more about Professor Karunadasa in this interview.

What does it mean to you to be the recipient of this award?

It is such an honor to join a group of inorganic chemists that I greatly admire.

What prompted you to study this field of chemistry?

As an undergraduate in Bob Cava’s lab, I was first introduced to the joys of making solid-state materials and studying their exquisite crystal structures. In Jeff Long’s group, as a graduate student, I learned to appreciate the beauty of molecules and started thinking about orbital interactions. When it was time to define my own research program, I wanted to combine everything I loved about both extended solids and molecules.

What are some of the important applications that you are working on that will benefit society?

We are working on identifying the chemical origins of the weaknesses of lead-halide perovskite solar absorbers so that we can design new materials that capture their strengths while addressing their problems. These materials are exciting candidates as inexpensive solar absorbers that can either replace or improve Si-based absorbers for cost-efficient solar-to-electricity conversion.

Tell us about your research philosophy.

I have learned to trust intuition and instinct. Sometimes we know where to look, without knowing exactly what we will find! Many of our discoveries came from knowing the well-trodden path and taking a substantial detour and recognizing a cool result at the very early stages. My students are very much behind the wheel; their explorations have led us down paths I had no idea we would take.

What’s next in your research?

We recently developed methods for interleaving two different layered materials together in a bulk crystalline solid. We are exploring the new properties that arise when two different materials share an interface and how we can use such repeating interfaces to manipulate light, electrons, and more.

Is there anything else that you would like to share?

An inorganic chemist can feel at home in pretty much any field of science. Topics like defects and doping in semiconductors have typically fallen into the fields of physics or engineering. But we have come to appreciate the power of looking at the orbital composition of these defects which give us a wealth of information on how to tune them from a molecular perspective.

Explore Professor Karunadasa’s recently published articles in ACS Publications Journals.

The Inorganic Chemistry Lectureship Award 2022 recipient will present during a symposium in their honor at the ACS Fall National Meeting in Chicago in August.

Learn more about last year’s winner.