Department of Energy awards nearly $1.75 million to two UAB early career scientists

From cancer to supercomputing, UAB researchers will make an impact across disciplines using the grant from the Department of Energy.
Written by: Tehreem Khan and Micah Hardge
Media contact: Micah Hardge

RS45003 003FacultyPortraits JonathanBurns scrJonathan Burns, Ph.D.,
Photography: Nik Layman
Two professors in the University of Alabama at Birmingham College of Arts and Sciences have been awarded a grant totaling nearly $1.75 million by the United States Department of Energy.

Jonathan Burns, Ph.D., to study the chemical behavior of astatine

Jonathan Burns, Ph.D., assistant professor in the UAB Department of Chemistry, was awarded $875,000 from the U.S. DOE.

Burns believes this award, set for a five-year period, will help enable research to fill in the gaps of knowledge surrounding the chemical behavior of astatine, which he believes currently stands in the way of its widespread use as an anti-cancer drug. 

“The research in my lab seeks to take advantage of the nuclear property of radioactive decay to help address problems spanning from radiopharmaceuticals to nuclear power,” Burns said. “This particular project aims to study an emerging radionuclide, astatine-211, which has enormous promise in fighting untreatable metastatic cancer.”

Burns acknowledges the capacity for societal impact these projects hold and accredits the contribution of those whose work helped achieve this award.

“It is a tremendous honor to be selected for the DOE Early Career Award, which validates the importance of the work we are currently doing and provides a path forward to continue to push boundaries of discovery for years to come,” Burns said. “We would not be able to carry out these studies without the strong relationship we have with the Isotope Production team at the Texas A&M University Cyclotron Institute led by Professor Sherry Yennello.” 

RS43802 Da Yan 2RT scrDa Yan, Ph.D.,
Photography: Bruce Southerland
Da Yan, Ph.D., to study large-scale graph data analytics

Da Yan, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science, was awarded $874,694 from the U.S. DOE.

Set for five years, the grant will allow acceleration of his research in large-scale graph data analytics, emphasizing the use of GPUs and new AI accelerators and enabling collaboration with the Argonne National Laboratory.

“My project aims to develop a general programming framework called Graph4All, making the implementation of various graph-theoretic algorithms and graph machine learning models easier and scale better with computing resources including GPUs and AI accelerators –– something the DOE has invested in recent years for supercomputing,” Yan said. “My research is important to fully unleash the supercomputing power at DOE, such as the GPU-rich supercomputers and ALCF AI testbed.”

Funded through the DOE Office of Science’s Early Career Research Program, these awards highlight the potential and significance of the research coming out of the UAB College of Arts and Sciences.