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The US Department of Energy’s Office of Science recently picked two UT assistant professors for its Early Career Research Program.

Industrial and systems engineering’s James Ostrowski was selected for his research into complex algorithms, while chemistry’s Brian Long was chosen for his work on developing membranes for gas separations.

James Ostrowski

In his work “Symmetric Convex Sets: Theory, Algorithms, and Application,” Ostrowski notes that the growth in use and improvement of algorithms has allowed computers to take on new roles in areas that require rapid decision making, such as transportation, but that some persistent quirks remain.

He theorizes that those problems all have something in common and should be approached with that in mind.

“By developing tools that exploit this symmetric structure, one will be able to easily solve optimization problems considered intractable and improve the computational speeds by orders of magnitude,” Ostrowski says in his abstract. “The challenge of solving optimization problems will thus be transformed by changing a large part of the work to one of seeking symmetry and then exploiting it.”

Brian Long

Long’s work “Advancing Polymeric Gas Separation Membranes through Molecular Engineering” notes that current practices of separating gases accounts for 10 to 15 percent of the total energy consumption in the world, so any improvement would have a significant global impact.

“One particular technology that has shown tremendous promise is the use of polymeric gas separation membranes,” says Long in his abstract, noting that a significant holdup stands in the way of their widespread use. “To bridge this scientific gap, this research project aims to synthesize and evaluate polymeric gas separation membranes possessing precisely defined structure at the monomeric, polymeric, and microphase levels.”

Both awards are pending final negotiations between the researchers and the Department of Energy.

The full list of winners and their abstracts can be found at the Office of Science.