Name: Svetlana Kilina

Position: Associate professor of chemistry at North Dakota State University

Accolades: Kilina is the first NDSU scientist to be awarded a $50,000 2014 Sloan Research Fellowship from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The award is granted each year to young scientists whose achievements identify them as the next generation of scientific leaders. Since its inception in 1955, 42 Fellows have gone on to win a Nobel Prize in their respective field.

Her story: A native of the Ural Mountain region of Russia, Kilina earned her doctorate in chemistry at the University of Washington, Seattle, in 2007. She completed a two-year Director's Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico before joining NDSU in 2009.

Her research involves using computational chemistry to study and hopefully improve the means by which the sun's energy is converted into electric power.

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Solar panels today capture only 20 to 30 percent of the sun's energy. Kilina also points out that solar panels are costly and can be difficult to install and maintain.

Her goal is to find materials that will improve the efficiency of these solar energy devices and to make them small, flexible and practical to use.

She dreams of possibilities such as a type of paint that could be applied to homes that would collect solar energy. She said we're far away from that technology now but that it will hopefully be possible one day.

Her research: Through the use of supercomputers at NDSU, Kilina can simulate physical and chemical processes on nanocrystals that are difficult to measure through experiments. She is able to manipulate outside factors and measure their effects.

"This is what you call modeling. It's not exactly how it is in the real world, but we can make it simple so we can really check specific features and processes and answer specific questions," Kilina said.

"Once we know the main processes and the key factors for that behavior, then it goes to the technological point of view," Kilina said. "How can we improve it? Because I'm a chemist, I want to know how we can modify the material to make these key processes be easier to happen."

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Angie Wieck at (701) 241-5501