Matthew Beard and Garry Rumbles Elected Fellows of AAAS

World’s Largest General Scientific Society Recognizes 2 NREL Scientists for Outstanding Fundamental Science Contributions

Feb. 1, 2023 | By Susannah Shoemaker | Contact media relations

Two men smiling.
NREL researchers Garry Rumbles (left) and Matthew Beard (right) were announced as fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) this week. Photos from Garry Rumbles and Matthew Beard, NREL

This week, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) researchers Garry Rumbles and Matthew Beard were announced as fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). This distinguished fellowship program recognizes exceptional scientists, engineers, and innovators for their extraordinary achievements across scientific disciplines.

"AAAS represents not just chemistry—the area Matt and I work in—but science across a broad spectrum. It connects all the scientific disciplines and is designed to connect with a broad audience," Rumbles said. "That's what's exciting about being elected a AAAS fellow—the organization generates the opportunity to speak with a common voice."

Rumbles, who is a senior research fellow in the Chemistry and Nanoscience Center in NREL's Materials, Chemical, and Computational Science Directorate, works on solar energy, using it to generate charges in molecular systems, which in turn can be used to make electricity, fuels, and chemicals. His work is inspired by the natural world and natural systems, particularly photosynthesis.

"To me, being able to design something using nature as a template—that's the most challenging and exciting part of my work," Rumbles said.

Beard, who is also a senior research fellow in the Chemistry and Nanoscience Center, uses ultrafast spectroscopy to study how light interacts with matter. He leverages this understanding to develop fast, efficient, and novel strategies that transform solar energy into electrical and/or chemical energy.

"I've always been interested in ultrafast lasers as well as energy applications and energy conversion, and it made sense to combine the two," Beard said. "I wouldn't want to claim that I've done all of the work myself, though—there are a lot of really great people, including Garry and many students, postdocs, and staff scientists, who I have been privileged to work with and who deserve most of the credit."

What both Beard's and Rumbles' work have in common is their fundamental nature. Both researchers are passionate about promoting and highlighting the importance of basic science as a critical component of NREL's research portfolio.

"Sometimes pursuing basic science, asking fundamental questions, can seem to be irrelevant to immediate applications," Beard said. "But being elected an AAAS fellow speaks to the interest and appreciation the scientific community has for the kinds of problems we're working on. There is now a lot of interest in understanding how to control energy conversion, light-matter interactions, and so forth at a fundamental level."

Rumbles added, "We must continue to focus on the science of future energy solutions in addition to the current ones. Fundamental understanding can unlock unforeseen opportunities."

In addition to highlighting Rumbles' and Beard's exceptional scientific contributions, the AAAS fellowship also provides an opportunity to reflect and provide advice to an emerging generation of scientists.

Rumbles' advice to early-career researchers is to stay focused and learn the basics. "Create a solid foundation from which to generate expertise, and make sure your science is robust and long-lasting," he said. "Also, balance contribution and recognition, as they're not always the same thing."

Beard's advice is to trust the process. "If you're working on a tough problem and it's proving to be difficult, you have to have a bit of faith," he said. "If you keep following what you enjoy and working hard at it, it's going to work out okay."

Learn more about the 2022 AAAS fellows.

Tags: Solar,Materials Science,Photovoltaics,Awards,Chemistry and Nanoscience