My research aims to accelerate the development of electrochemical technologies for clean water and clean energy production by advancing fundamental understanding of ion-selective materials such as membranes and electrodes. These materials preferentially absorb or transport charged particles like Lithium or Sodium ions and are found in numerous environmental technologies including water desalination systems, fuel cells, electrolyzers, and flow batteries. I seek to develop a molecular-level understanding of the factors that make these materials selective to certain ions, and use that knowledge to engineer higher-performing materials. My multi-scale research approach integrates electrochemical and thermodynamic materials characterization methods, first principles simulations, and device testing to understand how materials behave under a wide variety of conditions.


  • Membrane separation processes
  • Ion-selective materials
  • Electrochemical technologies
  • Computational materials discovery


  • PhD in Environmental Sciences and Engineering, 2019

    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • Master of Science in Environmental Engineering, 2010

    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • B.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering, 2007

    University of Texas at Austin

  • B.A. in Plan II, 2007

    University of Texas at Austin


Water treatment





Postdoctoral Researcher

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Jul 2019 – Present Berkeley, California
Conduct experimental and computational materials research.

  • Develop software for high-throughput density functional theory and molecular dynamics simulations
  • Use computational and experimental methods to characterize polymer membranes in different ionic forms
  • Integrate a next-generation density functional into the Materials Project database

Senior Engineering Research Consultant


Nov 2018 – Present Seattle, Washington
Provide membrane domain expertise a materials startup company.

  • Guided initial R&D to adapt low-cost ceramic ion exchange membranes for electrodialysis
  • Developed standard protocols for membrane characterization and data analysis
  • Trained and mentored two research scientists in electrochemical techniques

Research Assistant

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Jul 2015 – May 2019 Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Researched selective mass transport in ion exchange membranes.

  • Performed comprehensive characterization of commercial ion exchange membranes
  • Developed an analytical model to predict membrane permselectivity
  • Demonstrated a novel membrane chemistry incorporating non-covalent crosslinking


Founder and CEO

Bluecell Energy LLC

Jul 2013 – Jun 2015 Research Triangle Park, North Carolina
Developed rechargeable batteries based on saltwater.

  • Invented and reduced to practice a novel energy storage technology based on saltwater
  • Worked with co-founder and two MBA students to analyze system cost-effectiveness and feasibility
  • Oversaw design, materials selection, fabrication, and testing of three laboratory-scale prototypes

Environmental Engineer

CDM Smith, Inc.

Jun 2010 – Jul 2013 Raleigh, North Carolina
Planned and designed drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.

  • Conducted bench-scale experiments to evaluate treated water corrosivity to lead, copper, and iron
  • Analyzed feasibility of a biogas-fueled combined heat and power engine at a wastewater treatment plant
  • Performed shop drawing reviews for mechanical equipment for a new water treatment plant

Research Assistant

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Aug 2008 – May 2010 Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Studied ozone and magnetic ion exchange (MIEX) for brackish water treatment.

  • Investigated the use of magnetic ion exchange resin and ozone to reduce disinfection by-product formation
  • Characterized samples using physical and chemical water quality analysis, gas chromatography, ion chromatography, and excitation-emission spectroscopy
  • Oversaw multiple international projects as president of Engineers Without Borders chapter



Jun 2007 – Jul 2008 Austin, Texas
Planned and designed drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.

  • Designed chemical storage and pumping systems for a 42 MGD drinking water treatment facility
  • Analyzed a proposed water transmission main alignment for conflicts with buried utilities
  • Assessed the condition of a 50 MGD water treatment facility, identified capacity bottlenecks, and made recommendations for expansion

Recent Publications

Quickly discover relevant content by filtering publications.

Effect of osmotic ballast properties on the performance of a concentration gradient battery

A concentration gradient battery (CGB) is an energy storage system comprised of a series of concentrated and dilute salt solution …

Tuning the Solvation Structure in Aqueous Zinc Batteries to Maximize Zn-Ion Intercalation and Optimize Dendrite-Free Zinc Plating

Aqueous zinc batteries are recognized to suffer from H$^+$/Zn$^{2+}$ coinsertion in the cathode, but few approaches have been reported …

Tunable Anion Exchange Membrane Conductivity and Permselectivity via Non-Covalent, Hydrogen Bond Cross-Linking

Ion exchange membranes (IEMs) are a key component of electrochemical processes that purify water, generate clean energy, and treat …

Aqueous Stability of Zirconium Clusters, Including the Zr(IV) Hexanuclear Hydrolysis Complex [Zr6O4(OH)4(H2O)24]12+, from Density Functional Theory

Framework materials constitute a broad family of solids that range from zeolites and metal–organic frameworks (MOFs) to coordination …

Recent Posts

Success in science communication: the Research SLAM

This fall I had the honor of participating in the Research SLAM competition for postdocs. The SLAM challenges contestants to present a …

Revisiting Jay Whitacre's Innovation Story

Earlier today energy storage startup Aquion Energy announced that the cost of its breakthrough saltwater battery technology should fall …

Blue Energy research in the news

In the last few weeks my group’s research on salinity gradient a.k.a. “blue” energy has generated some press. …

How to calculate salt activity

My work in membrane processes for desalination and blue energy often requires me to calculate the thermodynamic properties of salts. …

The untapped source of clean energy you’ve never heard of

Blue Energy makes electricity from saltwater Emerging “blue energy” technologies are on the verge of unlocking a new way to generate …


  • 1 Cylcotron Road, Berkeley, CA, 94720, United States
  • Building 33