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Jesse MatthewsHe has worked on signal processing noise and lithium-ion battery research at UMD.

Jesse Matthews, a junior chemical engineering and mathematics dual-degree student at the University of Maryland, was awarded a scholarship by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, which encourages students to pursue advanced study and research careers in the sciences, engineering and mathematics. 

Matthews, who is also a Banneker/Key Scholar and member of the University Honors program in the Honors College, was one of four Goldwater Scholars selected at UMD this year. Over the last decade, UMD’s nominations yielded 33 scholarships—the most in the nation, followed by Stanford University with 32. Goldwater Scholars receive one- or two-year scholarships that cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to $7,500 per year. These scholarships are a stepping-stone to future support for the students’ research careers. 

Matthews worked for two summers with Radu Balan, a professor of mathematics and the Center for Scientific Computation and Mathematical Modeling, to improve noise reduction in signal processing for speech recognition and X-ray crystallography.

Now, he is working to make safer lithium-ion batteries. Lithium-ion batteries typically contain a liquid electrolyte, through which the lithium ions move. Matthews is developing new, non-flammable solid polymer electrolytes, which would be inherently safer than liquid electrolytes for applications like implanted biomedical devices.

Matthews has synthesized and characterized two solid polymer electrolytes. The first allows lithium metal to be safely used as the battery anode, which results in a battery with higher energy density. The second incorporates water as a component, which results in improved battery safety and no need for a dry manufacturing environment. Matthews demonstrated that batteries incorporating these electrolytes can function for hundreds of charge-discharge cycles without significant fade in energy output. Next, he plans to characterize and improve the interfaces between the electrolytes and electrodes to improve battery cell performance.

Matthews co-authored a paper in the journal Electrochimica Acta and was selected as the top student poster presenter in a fuels, petrochemicals and energy category at the 2019 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Annual Meeting.

“These are remarkable accomplishments for an undergraduate and clearly demonstrate a strong work ethic,” Kofinas said. “I am confident he will contribute to many more impactful experimental results over the remainder of his undergraduate career. 

Matthews also takes time to help others. Last summer, he mentored four high-school students on a research project as part of the university’s ESTEEM (Engineering Science and Technology to Energize and Expand Young Minds) Summer Engineering Research-Quest for underrepresented minorities.

“Our scholars are a uniquely talented group, already making discoveries in their fields of study—from developing more stable batteries and innovative power supplies to streamlining the pathway of drug design and understanding the contributions of RNA in cancer and other diseases,” said Robert Infantino, associate dean of undergraduate education in the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences. Infantino has led UMD’s Goldwater Scholarship nominating process since 2001.

Written by Abby Robinson