2024 Klemperer Award winner: Qi Hua

Portrait of Qi Hua standing in a lecture room with seats in the background

Working toward a PhD in chemistry, Qi Hua has been doing research in the lab of Prof. Andrew Gewirth that seeks a deep understanding of the electrocatalysis processes essential for energy conversion devices, such as fuel cells.

"Specifically, my research delves into the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) at the cathode and the methanol oxidation reaction (MOR) at the anode of fuel cells," Hua said. "I explored how various support materials influence the performance of ORR catalysts and how changes in electrode morphology impact the activities of both MOR and ORR catalysts. This research provides critical insights into the mechanisms governing energy conversion reactions, offering pathways to manipulate catalyst reactivity effectively."

With a better understanding of ORR and MOR processes and the development of new methods to enhance catalyst performance, Hua said this work has practical applications in the development of high-performance fuel cells and other energy conversion devices, which are essential for a sustainable energy future.

Hua began the graduate program in chemistry at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2019 after graduating from Lanzhou University. She recently won the 2024 Klemperer Award for Outstanding Materials Chemistry Dissertation, which Hua said is not only a recognition of her scientific research but also a tremendous encouragement as she aspires to become a professor at a university in China. She said she hopes to contribute as a researcher and teacher by fostering knowledge and innovation in her field.

"It marks a significant milestone in my graduate studies and offers an inspiring launchpad for a future that promises both challenges and rewards," Hua said.

She also won the "Best Oral Presentation" at the 2023 Changwoo Park - Walter Klemperer Inorganic and Material Chemistry Allerton Conference.

Hua has also been involved in student organizations at Illinois, as a member of the Department of Chemistry Graduate Student Advisory Committee (DCGSAC), co-leader of the International Chemist Association, and membership chair of Illini Dancesport.

Hua said completing her PhD feels incredibly rewarding.

"It marks the culmination of years of hard work, dedication, and perseverance. This achievement not only validates my research efforts but also fuels my passion for advancing sustainable technologies. It is a significant step forward in my career, inspiring me to continue contributing to the field and pursue my career goal," she said.

Hua said she has benefited from good mentors throughout her educational journey.

"My research advisor and senior students in my lab at Illinois demonstrated what it means to be a good scientist. And my undergraduate mentor, a senior student, served as a peer model, teaching me the importance of pursuing personal goals with a plan, effort, and unwavering passion," she said.