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Christopher Wolverton Named Walder Award Winner

Computation expert works to improve materials for energy storage and conversion

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Christopher M. Wolverton, professor of materials science and engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University, has been named the 12th recipient of the Martin E. and Gertrude G. Walder Award for Research Excellence.

This award, established by Joseph A. Walder, M.D., in 2002 and given annually by the provost, recognizes excellence in research at Northwestern.

Trained as a physicist, Wolverton is an expert in computational materials science related to energy applications. He directs a large research group that studies the application of first principles quantum mechanical calculations to solid-state materials. Wolverton’s goal is to predict and optimize the properties of materials and help solve the problems of energy storage and conversion. 

Specific applications of his research include thermoelectric energy conversion and solar thermochemical energy sources, battery and hydrogen energy storage, nuclear power and the development of lighter, more efficient structural materials. Wolverton’s research has been published in leading journals. In 2012 alone, he had 24 publications. Wolverton holds eight patents.

“Chris has been very successful in all aspects of research, teaching and service since joining the highly ranked materials science and engineering department in 2007,” said Julio M. Ottino, dean of the McCormick School

For the past three years, Wolverton has served as his department’s graduate admissions chair. “The department and McCormick are fortunate to have his analytical skill set to predict behavior and properties of prospective graduate students as well as materials systems,” Ottino said. “As a teacher and mentor, he is dedicated to developing well-rounded scientists who can communicate their research.”

Prior to joining the Northwestern faculty, Wolverton worked for eight years at Ford Research Labs, where he rose to become a technical leader. From 2004 to 2006, he was in charge of the labs’ hydrogen storage and nanoscale modeling group.

Wolverton’s research has been funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation and Dow Chemical Company, among others. 

Joseph Walder, who established the Walder Prize, earned a doctorate and medical degrees from Northwestern. Northwestern historian T.H. Breen received the first Walder Award in 2002.

A complete list of Walder Award recipients can be found online.