Virginia Tech® home

NSF CAREER Award Recipients

2023 Awardee

A man with brownish hair, glasses, and a red dress shirt stand near some shrubbery.
Michel Schulz. Photo by Mike Lee for Virginia Tech.

michael Schulz


Schulz received the foundation's five-year $725,000 for the project titled "CAREER: Novel Approaches to Hyperbranched Polymers" to develop ruthenium-catalyzed self-condensing Ring-Opening Metathesis Polymerization to prepare hyperbranched polymers. The award comes from the Macromolecular, Supramolecular, and Nanochemistry program within the foundation’s Division of Chemistry.

“Hyperbranched polymers are tree-like 3D macromolecules that have very different viscosity characteristics when compared to linear polymers,” said Schulz, a faculty member with the Department of Chemistry since 2017. “As a result, hyperbranched polymers have been investigated in various applications, including additives, coatings, sensors, high loading supports in combinatorial chemistry, and homogeneous catalysts.”

In this research, inimers — small molecules acting as both initiators and monomers — will first be synthesized. Structural modifications will also be made to optimize polymerization activity. These successfully prepared inimers will then be used in self-condensing polymerization to prepare several hyperbranched polymers with interesting structural and mechanical properties.

2022 Awardees

Wearing a red dress shirt open at the neck, Frank Aylward of Biological Sciences, poses in front of a Hokie Stone wall. Photo for Virginia Tech by Alex Crookshanks.

Wearing a red dress shirt open at the neck, Frank Aylward of Biological Sciences, poses in front of a Hokie Stone wall. Photo for Virginia Tech by Alex Crookshanks.
Frank Aylward. Photo for Virginia Tech by Alex Crookshanks.

Frank Aylward


Two years in the COVID-19 pandemic, most people are now aware how quickly viruses can pass from person to person and cause widespread illness. But viruses — giant ones — also can be found everywhere in nature. Let’s put it this way, if an organism has a nucleus, it can catch a virus.

Frank Aylward, an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, wants to understand how environmental viruses can literally reshape biological ecosystems. Similar to how COVID-19 changed the very way people interacted and lived — remember those eerie 2020 YouTube drone videos of all-but-silent cities, towns, and college campuses? — viruses can change the way organisms interact and exist in nature.

Woman smiles in front of gray stone building
Photo by Steven Mackay for Virginia Tech.

Lauren Childs


The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how infectious diseases can wreak havoc on modern society and magnified how important it is for scientists to find ways to understand, predict, and better control them.

With a five-year $550,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award, Lauren Childs, an assistant professor with the Virginia Tech Department of Mathematics, seeks to develop mathematical frameworks that can decipher the dynamics of disease and suggest earlier, more effective interventions to mitigate the spread of disease.

“Simple mathematical models are useful tools in understanding patterns of disease spread, particularly in homogeneous populations,” Childs said. “However, real world populations are more complicated. We need to take into account factors like age, genetics, and prior exposure to disease to better identify groups where the disease is most likely to spread, which groups are at the most risk, and how long we should expect epidemics to last.”

man stands at table of computers and looks back at camera
Photo by Steven Mackay for Virginia Tech.

Satoru Emori


We keep much of our digital data in the “cloud” today. All those photos and videos are, at their core, zeros and ones stored on untold millions of magnetic tapes and discs.

These tapes and discs — though a vast improvement over the magnetic tape first used for computers in the 1950s — eat up a lot of energy, fast becoming a big part of the global energy problem. It’s a problem Satoru Emori, an assistant professor in the Virginia Tech Department of Physics, wants to solve. He’ll do this by creating new thin films made of specially engineered magnetic materials, a project funded by a five-year, $500,000 National Science Foundation CAREER award.

“In the long run, this research can help replace clunky magnetic tapes and disks with far more energy-efficient, and yet still economical, magnetic memories,” Emori said.  “We’ll then be able to keep up with the growing demand for more information processing while reducing the global energy consumption.”

Sujith Vijayan
Sujith Vijayan. Photo by Melissa Vergara for Virginia Tech.

Sujith Vijayan


Scientists have long known that when people sleep, the brain performs memory magic.

People who sleep for eight hours after learning something new perform better than those who learn the new task during the day and are tested eight hours later without sleeping in between. More recently, scientists have discovered that odors and sounds presented during sleep can influence brain activity to further enhance the learning and memory benefits of sleep.

Now, Sujith Vijayan, an assistant professor in the School Neuroscience, part of the Virginia Tech College of Science, has received a $696,000 National Science Foundation CAREER award to study whether the brain’s work during sleep can also help people learn tasks associated with brain computer interfaces.