A University of Louisville student has received a prestigious grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) to study novel ways to remove greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. 

The grant will allow Christine Burgan, who’s earning her doctorate in chemistry at UofL’s College of Arts and Sciences, to spend the fall semester conducting her dissertation research at the DoE’s Pacific Northwest National Lab in Washington state. She’s one of just 87 students selected from among the nation’s top schools. 

“This award is such a treasure to me because it offers me the opportunity to fill in some holes in my thesis project,” Burgan said. “[When I was accepted,] I had to read the email three times because I couldn’t believe it.” 

The program, through the DoE’s Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) program, connects students with specialized equipment and experts they may not otherwise have access to. The idea is to give students resources that will help them complete their dissertation or thesis research, with an eye on growing the STEM workforce.

Burgan’s research focuses on molecular complexes that excel at capturing dilute carbon dioxide, including direct air capture, which will be an important part of decarbonizing the atmosphere. She said this program and working at the national lab will allow her to further that research by doing high-pressure Nuclear Magnetic Resonance and electrochemistry experiments, which would allow her to confirm some observations and potentially publish in high-impact journals. 

“Hands down my favorite part of the PhD adventure has been seeing my dissertation come together after these 4 years,” said Burgan, whose advisors are Robert Buchanan and Craig Grapperhaus, professors in the chemistry department. “I never would’ve thought the start of my fifth year would’ve been at a national lab. I’m very excited to talk to new people about what they do and sharing what I do. Science is best when it’s collaborative.”