Kate Fu and Marta Hatzell Win NSF CAREER Awards

Kate Fu and Marta Hatzell

Woodruff School Assistant Professors Katherine Fu and Marta Hatzell have each received the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The award is one of the NSF’s most prestigious honors in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education, and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations. 

Dr. Fu, who serves as the director of Georgia Tech’s Engineering Design Research Lab, received her 2019 CAREER Award for research aimed at gaining a deeper understanding of the role that error management cognitive bias plays in the design process, and to identify and test means to mitigate that bias.
 
“We all have cognitive bias, and it's been studied pretty deeply in psychology, but a lot of the psychology studies look at more abstract scenarios,” elaborates Fu. “They've often tested for cognitive bias in problems that don't map as directly to situations like engineers working in design teams. We’re trying to understand how cognitive bias might play a role in design, and how we can help to mitigate some of that bias to help engineers be more objective in their approach to decision making and design.”
 
The education component of the award will include a collaboration with the Center for Puppetry Arts (CPA) in Atlanta. Dr. Fu and her students will work with the CPA to develop distance learning and on-site STEM outreach programs aimed at increasing the pipeline for groups typically underrepresented in engineering - women and minorities. She will also partner with the CPA to design interactive, STEM-focused exhibits driven by technology.
 
Dr. Hatzell, whose research focuses on electrochemical systems for waste conversion, water treatment, and energy generation, received her 2019 CAREER Award for research on the development of revolutionary technology that transforms air into fertilizer using only the sun as the source of energy. This would allow for fertilizers to be made locally on farms, reducing waste and carbon emissions released from current centralized fertilizer production practices. Using this method would also improve access to fertilizers in isolated parts of the world that lack access to the global supply chain. 
 
“Using electrons and photons to split water to produce renewable fuels like hydrogen is a relatively old and established science,” said Hatzell. “We are trying to extend these processes to split nitrogen gas, rather than water, to produce renewable chemical commodities, such as ammonia-based fertilizers. Fertilizers are essential to produce food and eliminate global hunger. In fact, one third of all the protein consumed globally is dependent on the application of fertilizers. Therefore, developing technologies which increase access to fertilizers will be an important grand challenge as global population continues to increase."
 
Through the education plan associated with Dr. Hatzell’s award, she will work with environmental science teachers at Arabia Mountain High School who are participants in the Georgia Intern Fellowships for Teachers program to develop a teaching component for K-12 science classrooms connecting the nitrogen cycle with food production and clean agriculture.

"The Woodruff School congratulates professors Kate Fu and Marta Hatzell on their NSF CAREER Awards," said Dr. Samuel Graham, Chair of the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech. "These awards are a result of the leadership they have demonstrated in their fields and their vision to address critical challenges that must be solved in order to move these fields to the next level.  We are excited about these opportunities for Professors Fu and Hatzell and the inspiration and training they will bring to the next generation of researchers."