UNT Physics Assistant Professor Dr. Yuan Li Receives NSF Career Award | College of Science
May 9, 2024

UNT Physics Assistant Professor Dr. Yuan Li Receives NSF Career Award

Three University of North Texas assistant professors in the College of Engineering and College of Science have earned more than $1.8 million in total grants through the U.S. National Science Foundation's Faculty Early Career Development Program.

The NSF CAREER award is the most prestigious recognition for early career research faculty. It is granted to selected tenured-track faculty who haven't earned tenure and whose scholarly products have a high impact in their discipline and/or on society. Including its most recent honorees, UNT has 25 researchers who have earned NSF CAREER awards over the years.

The most recent recipients include Dr. Yuan Li (physics), Dr. Xiao Li (materials science and engineering) and Dr. Yuanxi Wang (physics). Over the next five years, they will use their grants to tackle research in areas ranging from unlocking new possibilities with liquid crystals to template nucleation and growth of inorganic species; furthering the understanding of supermassive black holes and investigating molecular defects in solid materials for quantum devices.

Dr. Yuan Li of UNT Physics received a $601,796 grant with her CAREER Award. Dr. Li, who specializes in using computer simulations to study physical processes in the universe, will use this grant to examine the evolution of massive galaxies. Using the newly developed astrophysics simulation tool Enzo-E, she'll look at how black holes evolve and impact their host galaxies as well as how massive galaxies influence the behavior of the smaller satellite galaxies around them.

Dr. Li and her students will create a new model for growth and feedback of supermassive black holes that they'll make publicly available to other scholars to help expand knowledge even further. "As humans, we want to know where we come from and where we're going," Dr. Li says. "This research will help answer some fundamental questions about our universe and how it evolved."

Dr. Li will continue developing astronomy courses for both undergraduate and graduate students to help expand UNT's astronomy program, which already has seen significant growth in the last four years. She'll also be printing 3D models of astronomy-related concepts to use in her community engagement efforts and setting up an exhibition in UNT's Environmental Science Building. "I think this is a very interesting way to visualize data and to engage students because they can touch the models and experience these cosmological structures in a different way," Li says.

"We're honored that so many UNT faculty across various research areas have been recognized with NSF CAREER awards," says Dr. Pamela Padilla, UNT vice president of Research and Innovation and a past recipient of the NSF CAREER award. "These awards will be transformative not only for advancing faculty in their careers but also in offering opportunities for our community and for students to conduct enriching research experiences within their labs."

Read the full story via UNT Research & Innovation