Carnegie Mellon University
July 24, 2021

Xiangsha Du Wins Kwolek Fellowship

By Ben Panko

Chemistry Ph.D. candidate Xiangsha Du has been named a co-recipient of the 2021 Kwolek Fellowship in Chemistry. The fellowship is funded by a bequest from Carnegie Mellon University alumna Stephanie Kwolek, best known as the inventor of the synthetic fiber Kevlar. It provides up to $50,000 to women Ph.D. candidates who "have shown significant advances in their research." 

Based in the lab of Professor of Chemistry Rongchao Jin, Du's research works toward the  controlled synthesis and characterization of atomically precise gold and bimetallic gold/silver nanoclusters that span the non-metallic to metallic state.  

"The grand evolution within this region will greatly deepen scientific understanding of the nature of quantum-sized gold/silver nanoclusters and will also provide implications for plasmonic nanoparticles," Du said. 

Jin noted that Du's research actually addresses a "very fundamental" question in many textbooks — how metallic bonds are formed. 

"By taking 'snapshots' of the size evolution of atomically precise gold (and bimetallic) nanoclusters, Xiangsha hopes to map out the diminishing HOMO-LUMO gap with increasing size and how the factors such as symmetry and doping influence the metallic bond formation," he explained.  

Du said that the Kwolek Fellowship will allow her to purchase necessary supplies to continue this work. 

Outside of her research, Du said she enjoys exploring the world through hiking and road trips.