COSAM News Articles 2022 June Auburn chemistry alumna part of highly competitive 2022 class of Arnold O. Beckman Postdoctoral Fellows – One of just 14 in the nation

Auburn chemistry alumna part of highly competitive 2022 class of Arnold O. Beckman Postdoctoral Fellows – One of just 14 in the nation

Published: 07/05/2022

By: Maria Gebhardt

For Alex Bredar, independent research has driven her to reach new heights.

Bredar was selected as part of the 2022 class of Arnold O. Beckman Postdoctoral Fellows in Chemical Sciences from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation. The 2022 class, which includes just 14 researchers, provides $4.3 million in funding to help develop these young scientists.

“I am thankful that Dr. Farnum pushed me to prepare me not just to graduate, but to work in a research-intensive field where I can help make discoveries and a difference,” said Bredar.

Byron Farnum, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Auburn, mentored Bredar as a graduate student.

“I could not have asked for a better PhD advisor,” she explained. “By having an advisor like Dr. Farnum, I had an exceptional experience earning my doctorate degree that inspired me to conduct independent research in the fundamental chemical sciences.”

The feeling was mutual with her advisor.

"Alex was such a joy to mentor. I am so proud of her for receiving this highly competitive fellowship. Watching her achieve this level of success is exactly what every mentor dreams of," said Farnum. 

This prestigious award process began with a blinded review then accelerates to submitting a full application and review.

“This program seeks out young scientists that can introduce new methods, processes, and instrumentation to the scientific community. Congratulations to the 2022 class of Arnold O. Beckman Postdoctoral Fellows – individuals who are meeting the program’s aims by doing research that is both important and innovative. We look forward to providing them with support as they transition to independent research careers,” said Anne Hultgren, executive director of the Beckman Foundation.

Bredar, who graduated from Auburn University with a doctorate degree in chemistry in 2021, is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She currently works in the group of Jillian Dempsey, in tandem with the Center for Hybrid Approaches in Solar Energy to Liquid Fuels, or CHASE, which is a Department of Energy Innovation Hub whose headquarters are at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

With this fellowship, she will continue to conduct fundamental chemistry research within CHASE; however, this award fully funds her position providing her with opportunities to take her research to even higher goals.

“My research involves carbon dioxide reduction catalysis,” she said. “My current project in CHASE has involved the interfacing of molecular CO2 reduction catalysts with light-absorbing semiconductors to produce hybrid photoelectrodes that can make liquid fuels from sunlight. CHASE has developed a state-of-the-art Solar Fuels Product Analysis Laboratory at UNC, which is crucial to our work. With my Beckman Fellowship, I am expanding upon our understanding of heterogeneous electrocatalysis by developing atomically precise nanoclusters that should have greater selectivity to produce liquid fuels like ethanol from CO2 reduction. My work experiences over the last year as a CHASE researcher and the facilities afforded to me through CHASE and UNC were both important to the success of my proposal.”

While at Auburn, Bredar was the co-chair of the 2020 Electron Donor-Acceptor Interactions Gordon Research Seminar.

She graduated in 2016 with her bachelor's degree from Centre College, a private liberal arts college in Danville, Kentucky.

Once she found out she was a recipient of this award, Bredar could not wait to tell her former advisor and lifelong mentor the news.

But instead of sending an email or making a quick call, she traveled almost 500 miles to the Plains to tell Farnum in-person.

“The Auburn Family has supported me and helped shaped me,” Bredar said. “It was a perfect opportunity to tell Dr. Farnum about this prestigious award where he first encouraged me to pursue my goals.”

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