March 13, 2024
Staff Accomplishment

Rishko and Johnson Honored for Undergraduate Research and Mentorship

Award from the Division of Inorganic Chemistry recognizes research performed at a corporate, national, or federal laboratory

Rishko Johnson ACS Spring 2024 Award

Computational scientist Samantha Johnson and her mentee, Wilma Rishko, received the American Chemical Society DIC undergraduate mentor-mentee award for a national lab.

(Photo by Andrea Starr | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

Wilma Rishko and Samantha Johnson will receive the American Chemical Society (ACS) Division of Inorganic Chemistry (DIC) Award for Undergraduate Research at the ACS Spring 2024 Meeting. The award is designed to recognize exceptional research performed by an undergraduate student and mentor pair. Rishko will present her work in March at a special award symposium at the ACS Spring 2024 Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The DIC Award for Undergraduate Research is given in up to three institution types each year. There are different categories based on the type of institution where the research was performed, with Johnson and Rishko recognized in the corporate, national, or federal laboratory category. Awardees are not allowed to self-nominate.

Johnson and Rishko have developed their fruitful collaboration over several years. Rishko first joined the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) team working for Computational Scientist Bojana Ginovska through the Department of Energy’s Community College Internship program. Rishko returned to PNNL through another Department of Energy internship program, the Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships program, deepening her research experience and expertise with Johnson as her mentor.

Rishko then returned as a full-time post-bachelors researcher, working directly with the Energy Storage Materials Initiative. Johnson, whose work focuses on modeling catalysts and energy storage processes, has steered Rishko through a series of computational projects.

“Wilma is an exceptionally talented young scientist,” said Johnson. “She’s incredibly determined when attacking a problem. She regularly asks questions that surprise and challenge our team. She’s also a joy to interact with!”

Recently, some of their work was published in ACS Materials Letters. The article focuses on modeling a component of aqueous organic redox flow batteries, a promising technology for storing renewable energy. They specifically studied how the structure of a potential electrolyte molecule affects its transport properties. Rishko will present this work at the DIC Award symposium on March 17 at the ACS Spring 2024 Meeting.

The pair will receive a plaque in recognition of their work, along with travel grants to attend the conference.

“Sam has been an incredible mentor,” said Rishko. “I’ve learned a lot of crucial skills in research that will help me as I continue to graduate school.”

Published: March 13, 2024