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Three UNT Professors Awarded $1.8 Million in NSF CAREER Grants

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DENTON, Texas — Three assistant professors from the University of North Texas (UNT) have secured more than $1.8 million in grants from the U.S. National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program. This prestigious award supports early-career faculty who show promise in their respective fields.

The recipients, Yuan Li, Xiao Li, and Yuanxi Wang, are from UNT’s College of Engineering and College of Science. Their research projects, which range from astrophysics to quantum devices and chiral materials, reflect UNT’s growing emphasis on high-impact scientific research. With these grants, UNT now has 25 researchers who have received NSF CAREER awards.

Yuan Li – $601,796 Grant

Yuan Li, an assistant professor in physics, will use her grant to study the evolution of massive galaxies and the role of supermassive black holes. Utilizing the Enzo-E astrophysics simulation tool, her team will create a publicly accessible model for black hole growth and feedback. “This research will help answer some fundamental questions about our universe and how it evolved,” said Li.

Li will also expand UNT’s astronomy program by developing new courses and creating 3D models of astronomical concepts for educational purposes.

Yuanxi Wang – $545,391 Grant

Assistant Professor Yuanxi Wang, specializing in computational materials theory, will develop algorithms to identify defects in solid materials that are suitable for quantum devices. His research will focus on how atomic vibrations affect light absorption and the behavior of defect spins. Wang aims to accelerate technological innovation by broadening the design space for quantum devices.

In addition to his research, Wang plans to design a workshop to help students from the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science at UNT enhance their research skills. He is also exploring virtual reality to make his research more accessible to the public.

Xiao Li – $715,009 Grant

Xiao Li, an assistant professor in materials science and engineering, will investigate new strategies for developing chiral materials with applications in miniaturized device technologies. Her research focuses on transforming liquid crystals with chiral structures into hybrid or inorganic materials.

Li’s educational initiatives include workshops and summer research opportunities for students, particularly those from institutions without graduate programs in materials science. She will also organize a networking event for professionals in the field to inspire students about career possibilities in soft matter science and engineering.

“We’re honored that so many UNT faculty across various research areas have been recognized with NSF CAREER awards,” said Pamela Padilla, UNT vice president of research and innovation. “These awards will be transformative for advancing faculty careers and offering opportunities for our community and students to engage in enriching research experiences.”

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These grants underscore UNT’s commitment to advancing research and education in science and engineering, fostering an environment where innovative ideas and academic growth can thrive.

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