Fournier wins NSF CAREER Award


Joseph A. Fournier, assistant professor of chemistry, won a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation for his project “Direct Interrogation of Proton-Coupled Electron Transfer Reaction Dynamics and Mechanisms with Cryogenic Ion and Ultrafast Vibrational Spectroscopies.”

Fournier’s research program focuses on characterizing the dynamics and mechanisms of fast chemical reactions. Fournier is particularly interested in charge transport processes that are fundamental to chemistry and biology, but are currently difficult to study using standard methodologies. By developing novel techniques for studying very fast reactions, Fournier and his group aim to better understand biological processes like photosynthesis, energy storage and transfer, and cellular respiration.

“The award will allow us to continue the development of new laser spectroscopic techniques to study and characterize an important class of reactions known as proton-coupled electron transport (PCET), which lie at the heart of chemical and biological catalysis, including photosynthesis,” Fournier said.  “The techniques we’re developing will reveal a level of molecular detail not obtainable with current experiments.” 

By tracking and measuring reactions in real time with molecular-level detail, Fournier will be able to unravel and quantify the key driving factors of PCET reactions, which will help guide the development of new molecules for applications in green energy and chemical synthesis.

Fournier’s project also includes support for participation in WashU outreach programs aimed at attracting St. Louis-area high school students to STEM fields, including the Catalysts for Change program and the Young Scientist Program’s Summer Focus initiative.