Engineering Professor Karen Chen-Wiegart Receives NSF CAREER Award for Her Research at SBU and BNL

The following feature story was originally published by Stony Brook University. Engineering Professor Karen Chen-Wiegart holds a joint appointment at Brookhaven’s National Synchrotron Light Source II—a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science User Facility. For more information, contact Ricarda Laasch, 631-344-8458,

Written by Adrian Hurtado

Karen Chen-Wiegart enlarge

To investigate an emerging dealloying process, Chen-Wiegert plans to use advanced x-ray techniques at the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II), where she holds a joint appointment in the Imaging and Microscopy Program.

Karen Chen-Wiegart, an assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering (MSCE) in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, has been awarded the 2018 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award (NSF CAREER award) for her project, “A Multi-modal Study of Bi-continous Pattern Formation in Nano/Meso Composite and Porous Metals Films via Solid-State Interfacial Dealloying.” The NSF CAREER award is one of the most competitive and prestigious awards proving federal grants to support junior faculty with research and educational activities. She will receive $558K during the next five years to conduct her project.

Chen-Wiegart’s CAREER research aims to investigate an emerging dealloying process: solid-state interfacial dealloying (SSID). This process is a versatile method for fabricating interconnected bi-continuous metal-metal composites and high-surface porous metals at the nano/meso scales. Understanding the fundamental thermodynamic and kinetic relationships, which drive the SSID process, will potentially allow for the design of new materials with functions in a wide range of important fields including sensing, actuating, energy storage and catalysis.

The investigation of such important process design will be done using advanced X-ray techniques at the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) at Brookhaven National Laboratory, where Chen-Wiegart holds a Joint appointment and worked as a staff scientist prior to joining Stony Brook. The material synthesis will also take place at the Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN), also located at Brookhaven Lab. Chen-Wiegart hopes to further collaborate with the staff scientists at CFN to investigate the functionalities of these new materials.

“Basic understanding of fundamental kinetics and thermodynamics in materials across multiple time and spatial scales in materials science are always important — they will lead to more elegant methods for designing novel architectures that enable new functionalities, benefiting our society,” said Professor Chen-Wiegart. “However, understanding the changes during the processes is challenging because these changes can happen rapidly and at a small length scale. This is why we use NSLS-II at Brookhaven National Laboratory — it offers unique capabilities with a bright X-ray source to capture the changes of materials. In particular, we will take a so-called ‘multi-modal approach,’ using a range of complementary X-ray techniques to provide a more holistic view of this process.”

“Karen has been a fantastic addition to our department,” said Michael Dudley, Chair of the Department of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering, “As she has demonstrated, MSCE at Stony Brook University is a great place for enthusiastic scientists and engineers to pursue their dreams through cutting-edge research. As she just began her second year as a junior faculty member with a joint appointment at Brookhaven, I look forward to Karen’s future research and educational contributions to our department and to her field as she advances her career.”

The CAREER award will also support an integrated educational plan based on the Stony Brook University–Brookhaven National Lab collaboration, which promotes materials science and engineering to a diverse student body.  Chen-Wiegart will engage students to study materials science using modern synchrotron X-ray techniques at NSLS-II. These educational opportunities will offer invaluable research experiences for the students to make an impact with cutting-edge materials research at one of the world-leading synchrotron facilities.

“I’ve known Karen since she was a graduate student at Northwestern University working at the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Lab, and I was delighted when we were able to hire her onto the NSLS-II scientific staff,” said Paul Zschack, NSLS-II Photon Science Division Director.  “It is very satisfying to witness her achievements and see her growth as a researcher.  Her interactions with Brookhaven and NSLS-II scientists are highly valued, and I look forward to successful and high-impact scientific collaboration for many years to come.”

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Chen-Wiegert hopes to collaborate with researchers from Brookhaven Lab's Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN), a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facility, to synthesize nanostructures for her research activities.

About the Researcher

Professor Chen-Wiegart earned her PhD in Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern University, where she studied dealloying and coarsening behaviors of nanoporous metals. Her research was co-funded by the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory. Before coming to SBU, she was a post-doctoral fellow at NSLS and then a staff member at NSLS-II. Her research focused on investigating the processing-structure-property correlation in materials, in particular using advanced synchrotron X-ray characterizations to understand the meso-scale structural and chemical evolution. Her recent research topics include energy storage and conversion, nano-/meso-porous materials, 3D-printing, thin films and surface treatment, as well as materials in cultural heritage.

In addition to her scientific activities, Chen-Wiegart has been active in many outreach programs, such as the Suffolk Community College Women in Manufacturing–STEM Summit, and the International Women’s Day Celebration “Girl Power in STEM” program at SBU. She has led NSLS-II facility tours for high school students, organized events such as “Bring Our Children to Work Day,” and also co-organized part of a children’s summer camp in her local community.

2018-12909  |  INT/EXT  |  Newsroom