The Kavli Nanoscience Institute established the KNI Catalyst Awards to recognize researchers in the nanoscience community who actively promote diversity, equity and/or inclusion at Caltech, JPL, or the broader scientific community.
This work is very often unpaid and driven heavily by students and postdoctoral scholars on campus, who must balance these efforts with their academic and scientific responsibilities. In celebration and support for some of the change makers at Caltech and JPL, the KNI is awarding the recipients with a $1,000 prize (each) to be used at their discretion.
In order to be considered for this award, formal nominations were submitted by peers, colleagues, or advisors, and a review committee evaluated the nominations to select this year's winners. The committee members were: Scott Cushing (assistant professor of chemistry & 2021 KNI-Wheatley Scholar), Tiffany Kimoto (executive director, KNI), Beverley McKeon (professor of aeronautics & EAS Division Deputy Chair), Alison Tominaga (program coordinator, Caltech's Center for Inclusion and Diversity), and Nai-Chang Yeh (professor of physics & former KNI co-director).
The KNI is very pleased to announce the recipients of the inaugural 2021 KNI Catalyst Award:
There were many stellar nominees this year, and the KNI would like to highlight these additional nominees and their thoughtful efforts, below:
Rebecca Gallivan, Graduate Student Researcher in Material Science
Rebecca is a fourth year graduate student in the Greer Group with a research focus on investigating the microstructure-property relationship in additively manufactured nano-architected materials. She is also a Graduate Resident Associate where she acts as a peer advocate for graduate students and build community in Caltech graduate housing.
Why community involvement is important to Rebecca:
"Understanding why the world behaves the way it does is my passion and I wish to inspire that curiosity in everyone. In particular, I am committed to sharing knowledge and opportunity with communities who historically lack access to and advocacy in science because I know how important the support and mentorship I have received been in my own journey as a scientist. I really love material science and engineering so I can't help but want to encourage everyone to be a part of my community."
Rebecca Glaudell, Graduate Student Researcher in Physics
Rebecca is a seventh year graduate student in the Atwater Group. Her research focuses on improving photovoltaic devices through the optimization of carrier-selective contacts. Her work in the lab includes depositing thin films in ultra-high vacuum and performing optoelectronic characterization. Outside of the lab, Rebecca is a member of Caltech for Black Lives, the Caltech Disability Coalition, Women* in PMA, Caltech Y Tutoring, the Social Action Team, the Slide Rule Trombone Choir, and am the band manager and a trumpet section member of the Caltech Wind Orchestra.
Why community involvement is important to Rebecca:
"I believe we are all responsible for pushing towards equity, especially beneficiaries of privilege. I am constantly inspired to engage in social action by my peers who stand on the front lines and make clear the fundamental tie between social and scientific progress."
Chang-Sub Kim, JPL Postdoctoral Scholar
Chang-Sub Kim is a postdoctoral scholar in the Superconducting Materials & Devices Group at JPL. His research focuses on the development of thin (< 50 nm) MgB2 superconducting thin films for very sensitive and efficient next-generation detectors and devices for future NASA missions, like space telescopes.
Why community involvement is important to Chang-Sub:
"I came to the U.S. when I was 14. Coming from South Korea, a monoethnic country, it was eye-opening to see the diversity in this country. Over the years, I have learned that this diversity is what is behind so many innovations and breakthroughs. I have been privileged to be part of Caltech, MIT, and JPL, where I am surrounded by STEM experts and can easily ask for help and guidance. Inequalities in STEM are well known, so whenever I saw DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) efforts asking for help, I participated believing every effort, regardless of the size, will help make a difference, and that one day, every student will get a chance to see, learn and explore the fun side of STEM. Also, I love getting acquainted with new people and learning about different communities, each with a unique perspective and background - plus, it's such a rewarding experience to see my mentees learn and progress!"
Stephanie Leifer, Visiting Associate in Applied Physics (former JPL Technologist)
At JPL, Stephanie led multiple efforts in developing calibration sources for spectrographs used in detecting and characterizing exoplanets. Currently, she is a Senior Project Leader in Aerospace's Physical Science Laboratory's Research and Collaboration Office. While at JPL, Stephanie mentored students at CalStateLA for their Capstone Senior Design projects, which stemmed from the JPL University Crowdsourcing Initiative (JUCI). Through JUCI, Stephanie engaged four students in a project to build a spectral flattener unit for one of JPL's spectrograph calibration sources. Also, Stephanie helped to bring the Society of Women Engineers' (SWE) program, the STEM Reentry Task Force program, to JPL, where "reurneeships" are now available to help people with science and technology backgrounds to return to the workforce after career gaps.
Why community involvement is important to Stephanie:
"I believe caring for the next generation is the most important thing we do. So, it is important to enable people to take time out from their careers to raise children while providing them a path back into the workforce where they can update their skills a make the most of those they already possess. As a mother of four, this is a very personal issue for me, as I faced challenges and made professional sacrifices so that I could raise my children."
Cora Went, Graduate Student Researcher in Physics
Cora is a fifth year graduate student in the Atwater Group. She is working on 2D transition metal dichalcogenides for applications to ultrathin and lightweight solar cells. Cora is the co-founder and president of WiPMA (Women* in PMA), a group that supports women in the division by providing community-building events, discussions of gender in STEM fields, and professional development. As WiPMA president, Cora co-chaired the first annual FUTURE conference, bringing 35 undergraduate women in physics from across the country to Caltech for two-day workshop on applying to graduate school. Recently, she has been involved in Caltech for Black Lives and helped to prepare the Reckoning Task Force town hall series about building renaming.
Why community involvement is important to Cora:
"If we had true racial justice, gender justice, and other forms of social justice in our world, Caltech would look like the broader population. Until we get there, I believe it's crucial to fight for those things at Caltech and beyond."