Chemist honored as Fellow in top physics organization
Aurora E. Clark, a WSU professor and expert in physical chemistry, has been named a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the nation’s leading association for physicists.
Her research “underpins the basic science needed to solve a variety of important industrial problems that impact human health, environmental management, and technological innovation,” Clark said.
The prestigious award recognizes Clark’s work in developing innovative methods to advance the study of complex chemical solutions and their interfaces using molecular simulation and integrating methods from graph theory, topology (shape), and geometry.
Her work helps to expand understanding of chemical phenomena that have challenging correlations across length and time scales.
Her research supports development of new methods used to separate and purify complex mixtures into pure components. These separations science methods form the basis of treatment strategies for cleanup of nuclear waste at the Hanford site in Washington and other contaminated locations. They are also integral to the recycling of high-value critical elements contained in cell phones and other devices.
In 2012, Clark began utilizing network analyses, employed by internet giants like Google, to study how molecules interact with one another. Her work elucidating the networks of molecular interactions in liquids has led to new data-mining methods that reveal molecular shapes and the motions and pathways for previously unknown chemical reactions.
In addition to conducting foundational research, Clark teaches introductory and upper division chemistry courses and supervises graduate, undergraduate, and post-doctoral researchers. She also works with professional organizations to create educational and professional opportunities for early-career scientists and to generate planning documents for federal funding agencies on scientific areas of national need.
A member of WSU faculty since 2005, she directs the University’s Center for Institutional Research Computing. She is a laboratory fellow of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and further distinguished as a Fellow of both the American Chemical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The APS Fellowship Program recognizes members who have made exceptional contributions to the field of physics, such as outstanding research or applications of physics, or significant contributions to physics education. Each year, no more than one half of one percent of the society’s membership is recognized by their peers for election to the status of Fellow.
By J. Adrian Aumen, College of Arts and Sciences