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In this interview, Yuhua Duan discusses: his role at the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) under the US Department of Energy (DoE); childhood poverty in the Chinese countryside; experience as an undergraduate in 1980s China; master’s degree in chemical physics at the University of Science and Technology (UST) in China; PhD in condensed matter physics; mentorship with T.S. Kê at UST; postdoc studying surface physics at Fudan University under Xide Xie; time at Basel University in the Institute of Physical Chemistry; research associate position at University of Minnesota (U of M) School of Physics and Astronomy under Woods Halley, modeling on the polymer electrolyte for battery applications; switch to Chemical Engineering and Materials Science Department to focus on protein-protein interaction; decision to stay in the US and apply for citizenship; joining the NETL team; research simulating the microwave sintering by finite element approach; work on CO2 capture to fight climate change; discussion of CO2 storage and use; work developing sensor materials that function under extreme conditions; discussion of quantum information science in the energy sector and quantum sensor research; tritium production research; using a supercomputer for his work, discussions of capabilities of the quantum computer; and the impact of political administration changes on work focus at NETL. Toward the end of the interview, Duan reflects on NETL’s contributions to research on controlling carbon emissions and mitigating climate change.
Interview with Vyacheslav Romanov, Research Physical Scientist at the National Energy Technology Laboratory. Romanov recounts his upbringing in the Urals region of the Soviet Union, and he describes his education at a special high school for gifted students in Moscow. He explains the circumstances that led to his enrollment at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology for graduate school and his dawning realization that one can make sense of the world through physics. Romanov discusses his thesis research on the kinetics of light-matter interactions, and he describes his postgraduate work for the Soviet Space Program to develop thin film solar cells to power the International Space Station. He discusses the collapse of science funding after the breakup of the USSR and the opportunity he saw to emigrate to the United States at part of the Symposium on Diplomacy and Global Affairs in Washington, D.C. Romanov explains why he got an MBA from Waynesburg College and how this program put him on the path to U.S. citizenship. After a stint in the materials science industry, he describes his PhD research in physical chemistry and spectroscopy at the University of Pittsburgh, and how this led to his employment at NETL, first as a postdoc and then as a full-time employee. Romanov explains his initial work in geology and data analysis, his subsequent work in optimizing power plant generation, and his current research in reducing the environmental footprint of energy systems with machine learning. He describes the political and economic ramifications of his research, and he explains why carbon-based energy is central to the transition to a de-carbonized future, which, he asserts, will take decades to realize. At the end of the interview, Romanov explains why global efforts to mitigate environmental energy problems must rely on successful cooperation between the U.S. and China.