A nuclear engineer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory is the first African American woman to be involved with the discovery of an element, tennessine, the lab said Tuesday.
Clarice Phelps of ORNL’s Isotope and Fuel Cycle Technology Division is one of two researchers at the lab to be featured on the “Periodic Table of Younger Chemists,” ORNL said in a press release.
Also honored is Nathan Brewer, a postdoctoral researcher in ORNL’s Physics Division.
Phelps and Brewer are both early career researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy laboratory.
Their inclusion on the “Periodic Table of Younger Chemists” follows an international competition conducted by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) and the International Younger Chemists Network (IYCN), the press release said.
Phelps was selected to represent the element einsteinium, and Brewer represents tennessine, the press release said.
Phelps was cited “for her outstanding commitment to research and public engagement, as well as being an important advocate for diversity. She is the first African American woman to be involved with the discovery of an element, tennessine,” the press release said.
ORNL and Vanderbilt University nominated Brewer for his contributions to the discovery of tennessine, element 117, and for his work with the even heavier element 118, oganesson, the subject of his 2018 paper published in the journal “Physical Review C.” Brewer spoke about this work in a video for ORNL.
IUPAC and IYCN sponsored the international competition for young scientists to celebrate the 100th anniversary of IUPAC and the International Year of the Periodic Table. They selected 118 individuals who “embody the mission and core values of IUPAC” to represent each element.
The discovery of the superheavy elements, element 117, now named tennessine, and element 118, oganesson, were announced, along with the discovery of two other elements, in 2016. (See previous stories here, here, and here.) Twenty-two milligrams of a very pure synthetic material produced at ORNL were used in the discovery of two of the new chemical elements. Tennessine is only the second element named for a state.
This story includes information provided by ORNL/Abby Bower.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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