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Physicist Honored With Early Career Investigator Award

Adilson Motter will receive $100,000 to help improve the U.S. electric power grid

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July 26, 2010

Adilson E. Motter
Adilson E. Motter

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Adilson E. Motter, assistant professor of physics and astronomy in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University, has received the inaugural Northwestern-Argonne Early Career Investigator Award for Energy Research.

Motter will receive $100,000 over three years, with a portion of the award covering tuition and a stipend for a Northwestern graduate student who will work with Motter. Funded by Northwestern's Initiative for Sustainability and Energy (ISEN) and Argonne National Laboratory, the award honors scientists who work collaboratively between the two institutions. Motter is collaborating with Jianhui Wang, a power system engineer at Argonne, who is working on modeling and simulation of advanced electric power grids.

Motter, who also is an assistant professor of engineering sciences and applied mathematics at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, was selected for his proposal, "Optimization of Power-Grid Dynamics for the Development of Smart Grids." His research focuses on complex systems and nonlinear phenomena, primarily involving chaos, fractals, statistical physics, complex networks and biological physics.

"Professor Motter's proposal in the area of power grid operation and organization stood out as particularly novel," said David Dunand, James N. and Margie M. Krebs Professor of Materials Science and Applied Science, ISEN co-director and a lead member on the selection committee. "This research has excellent potential for transformative breakthroughs towards a ‘smart grid,' resulting in marked efficiency improvements in electric energy consumption and production."

"Improving the efficiency and reliability of the electric power grid has become an important national priority, especially as large numbers of distributed, renewable energy sources have come on line," said Mark C. Petri, Argonne's technology development director and chair of the Early Career Investigator Award Committee.  "This joint work between Northwestern and Argonne has the potential to allow power grid operators to better manage this complicated system."

Among his numerous honors, Motter received in 2009 an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship and a Weinberg College Award for Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research.

Motter has been widely published in the top journals of his field, including a 2009 cover article in Physical Review Letters, published by the American Physical Society.

The Initiative for Sustainability and Energy was established in 2008 by President Henry S. Bienen with the goal of supporting and enhancing Northwestern's research, teaching and outreach activities in the areas of energy and sustainability. Its mission is to create, advance and communicate new science, technology and policy for sustainability and energy.

Argonne National Laboratory, the nation's first national laboratory, seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in every scientific discipline. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.