Virginia Tech’s Nick Mayhall, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, has been named a 2021 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow, part of a cohort of 128 early career researchers who are each awarded a two-year, $75,000 fellowship.

Sloan Research Fellowships are highly competitive and recognize researchers in the early stages of their career for their creativity, leadership, and independent research achievements, according to the nonprofit. Many awardees who have received a Sloan Fellowship have gone on to lead incredible careers in their field.

Mayhall was nominated by Alan Esker, professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry, part of the Virginia Tech College of Science. “Nick has established a vibrant computational research group that is making leading contributions to the emerging area of quantum information science and strongly correlated systems,” Esker said. “His work has shown great promise and the Sloan Fellowship is recognition of that potential.”

A member of the Virginia Tech faculty since 2015, Mayhall’s previous honors include a 2018 National Science Foundation CAREER Award of more than $575,000 for five years to better understand strongly-correlated molecules by building computer-based methods that can create new algorithms that can then be run on supercomputers. He and his graduate students, postdocs, and collaborators research quantum chemistry to study potential renewable energy sources and new algorithms for quantum computing from a theoretical and computational approach. His work has been published in such journals as Nature Communications.

Funds from the award will be used to further Mayhall’s work in both quantum and classical methods development. “In addition to purchasing more computer equipment to enable larger simulations of both quantum computer algorithms and chemistry problems, funding will support student and postdoc travel to help catch up on the missed professional experiences during the pandemic,” Mayhall said.

Mayhall is the sixth Virginia Tech faculty member to earn a Sloan Fellowship since its inception in 1955. Previous awardees include James Condon of the Department of Physics in 1977; chemistry’s Edward Valeev and Amanda Morris in, respectively, 2009 and 2016; and Frank Aylward of the Department of Biological Sciences in 2018; all in the College of Science, and Davi Parikh of the Department of Computer Science in the Virginia Tech College of Engineering in 2016.

“These fellowships are intended to accelerate scientific breakthroughs, and Nick’s research in quantum computing will undoubtedly accelerate breakthroughs in chemistry that today are unsolvable using classical computing methods,” said Ronald D. Fricker, interim dean of the College of Science. “His research applying these methods to better understand the chemistry of things like renewable energy has the potential to help solve some of humanity’s greatest problems."

Mayhall earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Southern Indiana in 2006 and a Ph.D. in computational chemistry from Indiana University in 2011. He completed postdoctoral research work at the University of California Berkeley with Professor Martin Head-Gordon from 2011 to 2015, when he joined Virginia Tech.

The Sloan award is open to scholars across eight scientific fields, including chemistry, computational and evolutionary molecular biology, computer science, Earth system science, economics, mathematics, neuroscience, and physics. Candidates are nominated by their fellow scientists and winners are selected by an independent panel of senior scholars, according to a news release by the nonprofit.

Written by Corrin Lundquist, public relations officer and assistant to the chair in the Department of Chemistry.

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