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Josh Dunbar ’21 - Goldwater Scholar

Joshua Dunbar '21Chemistry major Joshua Dunbar ’21 has just been named a 2020 Goldwater Scholar.

The Goldwater Scholarship is the most prestigious national award for undergraduates in the natural sciences.  Joshua has done research at Savannah River National Laboratory and at also at Wheaton. He would like to obtain a Ph.D. in radiochemistry and eventually work to make the nuclear fuel cycle safe, sustainable, and cost-effective.

Joshua’s parents are also Wheaton chemistry major alums: Tim Dunbar (’92) and Jennifer Horney Dunbar (’92). (All three Dunbars have the unique distinction of having won our department’s Bernard Nelson Prize for Organic Chemistry.)

We are extremely proud of this high honor for Joshua!

More Information on Joshua

Chemistry major. Did research at Savanah River National Laboratory this past summer and is currently working with Dr. Ben Lovaasen in Chemistry.

Career Goal
I desire to obtain a Ph.D. in radiochemistry and eventually become a researcher at a national laboratory working to make the nuclear fuel cycle safe, sustainable, and cost-effective.

Further Description of Career Goals
Few events have changed the face of the world so much as the advent of nuclear energy. Harnessed peacefully, nuclear energy can provide clean power to the world for hundreds of years. The key challenge blocking further acceptance and usage of nuclear energy is ensuring that waste is kept to a minimum and environmental contamination is eliminated entirely. I desire to apply my passion for nuclear chemistry by leading a team of researchers at a national laboratory in improving the chemistry of the nuclear fuel cycle to enhance safety, sustainability, and cost-effectiveness. I believe strongly in the power of nuclear energy to provide the world with long-term power, but at present, fuel cycle limitations hamper its potential. The current fuel cycle only uses fuel once, because present reprocessing methods generate large amounts of byproduct solvent waste and are nonproliferation threats. I believe that better reprocessing technology would enable a dramatic increase in the uptake of nuclear power in the US and worldwide.

In high school I explored my interest in nuclear science by taking a college-level course called Nuclear Energy: Past and Present (a class focused on the history of the atomic bomb). Over the course of the semester, I felt a deep appreciation for both the tremendous power and the immense moral issues that arise from unleashing the atom. Desiring a more solid foundation in the hard science of nuclear chemistry, I participated in the ACS Nuclear Chemistry Summer School. This time provided me with a valuable introduction to radiochemistry and basic nuclear physics and to laboratory techniques that will be key in pursuit of my professional goals.

In order to gain more laboratory experience and introduce myself to the national laboratory system, I interned at the Savannah River National Lab this past summer. The research I participated in while there provided me with in-depth knowledge of radiochemical analytical techniques and built up my critical thinking skills for future research endeavors. I am now participating in inorganic chemistry research at my university, where my professor and I are working on new metal-ligand bonds. I anticipate that knowledge I gain through the course of this research will be helpful to understanding radionuclide-ligand interactions in nuclear fuel cycle separations.

This summer, I will either continue with this project or intern at the Pacific Northwest National Lab in the discipline of radiochemical separations. This will provide me with knowledge and laboratory skills directly applicable to a gaining a PhD in radiochemical separations and eventually applying that PhD in a national lab setting working on fuel cycle chemistry. The world-class research skill set and knowledge base acquired in pursuing my PhD will enable me to tackle my passion for improving reprocessing technology. I hope my career will contribute toward enabling nuclear energy to cleanly power the world for hundreds more years.